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Syria-bound aid plane inspected in Turkey

Oct. 15, 2012 at 6:38 AM   |   Comments

ANKARA, Turkey, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- An Armenian aid plane heading for Syria was escorted by Turkish fighter jets and forced to land in east Turkey for a security inspection Monday, officials said.

The plane, which had been bound for the embattled city of Aleppo in Syria, landed at an airport in Erzurum, Turkey, the Turkish daily Today's Zaman reported.

Armenia approved grounding of the aircraft as part of an agreement between Turkey and Armenia that requires planes heading for Syria to undergo routine security checks, officials told the Hurriyet Daily News.

Armenia had informed Turkey of its plans to send humanitarian aid to Syria, the newspaper said.

The incident occurred days after Turkey forced a Syrian plane traveling from Moscow to Damascus to land because of suspicions it was carrying military hardware. Turkish officials seized twelve parcels containing military communications equipment and missile parts, the Turkish media reported.

In another security incident, Russian passengers on a Syrian plane grounded by Turkey were state agents, a Turkish newspaper reported, as Turkey and Syria imposed tit-for-tat air space bans.

The 17 Russian passengers aboard the Syrian Air Airbus A-320 jetliner with 35 passengers were en route to Damascus from Moscow to identify about 300 Russian citizens of Chechen origin believed by Moscow to be fighting with Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, the Yeni Safak daily reported.

The predominantly Sunni Muslim Chechen Republic, or Chechnya, is an oil-rich region bordering Georgia whose residents historically resist Russian control. Moscow in recent years has tightened its grip on Chechnya as well as expanded its anti-terrorist operations throughout the region.

The predominantly Sunni Muslim Chechen Republic, or Chechnya, is an oil-rich region bordering Georgia whose residents historically resist Russian control. Moscow in recent years has tightened its grip on Chechnya as well as expanded its anti-terrorist operations throughout the region.

Most Syrian Muslims fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad are Sunni. Assad's ruling Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The Russian agents on the Syrian jet were members of the Federal Security Service, Russia's top domestic spy agency, and did not undergo a security check in Ankara, Turkey's capital, because they were carrying diplomatic passports, the newspaper said.

The passenger jet was forced by two Turkish F-16 warplanes to land in Ankara Wednesday after Turkish officials suspected the jet's cargo contained weapons and ammunition.

as close to the Turkish government, also said Turkey seized almost 900 pounds of military equipment, including parts that could be used in missiles.

Russia has said the cargo was a legal shipment of radar. It denies any weapons were aboard. Syria has denounced the interception as air piracy.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Saturday the cargo had been sent by a company based in the Russian city of Tula, 120 miles south of Moscow, that produces anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-artillery systems, as well as radar equipment.

The company, KBP Tula, was accused by Washington in 2003 of providing weapons and sophisticated military equipment to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in violation of U.N. sanctions.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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