Turkey, Ankara (SaebPress) – Turkish F16 fighter jets forced a Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources says there are suspicions the plane was carrying “non-civilian” cargo.
The plane was intercepted on its way from Moscow by American made F16 jets as it entered Turkish airspace, it was forced to land in Ankara’s international airport at 5:15 pm local time (3:15 pm GMT). The Airbus A-320 was carrying around 30 passengers; the plane had departed from Moscow destined to Damascus, is now being inspected, searched and its crew integrated by Turkish military officers and security personals.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that his government received intelligence indicating that the Syrian plane was carrying “certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules“; Mr. Davutoglu refused to answer what was the content of the alleged cargo.
Turkish media speculated that the plane was diverted on suspicions that it might be “transporting heavy weapons… Turkish fighter jets have forced a Syrian passenger plane to land at Ankara’s airport for investigation”, Turkish state media report.
The Syrian transport minister has accused Turkey of “air piracy” over its forced landing of a Syria-bound passenger aircraft travelling from Russia in the Turkish capital.
Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities have declared Syrian airspace to be unsafe and are preventing Turkish aircraft from flying over the country, the foreign ministry said. The director of the Syrian national airline, SyrianAir, said that Turkish authorities “used aggression” against the crew of the intercepted plane before permitting it to leave the airport. A Russian source said, “Neither weapons nor any kind of systems or parts for military equipment were on board or could have been on board.”
The plane and its passengers were allowed to continue after parts of the cargo were seized. Officials gave no details of what was confiscated, saying investigations were underway, but some Turkish newspapers said the cargo included non-lethal supplies such as radio equipment.
The move comes as Syria and Turkey continue to exchange artillery fire on their border. Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey’s top military commander warned Syria that Ankara would respond with greater force if Syria continued its cross-border shelling.