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A Look at the Turkmen Community in Syria

FILE - Syrian Turkmen are seen at a make-shift refugee camp some kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border, Apr. 23, 2013.

The Russian plane shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was operating over the Turkmen Mountain region in Syria's Latakia province, and one of the Russian pilots was captured by a rebel group that includes local Turkmen fighters.

Here's a look at the Turkmen community in Syria:

Who are they

Syrian Turkmen are Syrian citizens of Turkish ethnicity who have lived in Syria since Ottoman times and have coexisted with Syrian Arabs for hundreds of years.

There are no official statistics on the size of the Turkmen minority in Syria but most estimates say Turkmens number around 100,000. They speak an old version of the Turkish language called the Turkmen language.

Turkmens also form a small minority in Iraq and few thousands of them live in Lebanon, mostly in the northern part of the country.

Where do they live

Most Turkmens live in the Turkmen Mountain in Syria's coastal province of Latakia, near the border with Turkey. They also have a smaller presence in villages in the province of Aleppo in the north, Homs in central Syria and the Quneitra region in the country's south.

The Turkmen Mountain region has been subjected to a government offensive in recent days under the cover of Russian airstrikes. Last week, Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to demand that Russia cease operations in Syria targeting Turkmen villages.

Role in Syrian civil war

The Turkmen in Syria were among the first to take up arms against Syrian government forces, as Turkey lent its support to rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad. They have looked to Turkey for support and protection.

In late 2012, they united under the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, a coalition of Turkmen parties which represents Syrian Turkmens in the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition opposition group. The military wing of the assembly is called the Syrian Turkmen Brigades and aims to protect areas with Turkmens from government forces and the Islamic State group.

Turkey has vowed to support the Syrian Turkmen.