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Claim U-2 spy plane sabotaged

OSLO, Norway -- A Norwegian convicted of spying for the Soviet Union claims Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane was brought down in 1960 through sabotage, and not by Soviet rockets as Moscow reported.

The claim by Selmer Nilsen, sentenced in 1967 to 7 years in prison for espionage, is made in a new book, 'I Was a Russian Spy.'

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The Soviets reported that Powers was shot down by anti-aircraft rockets over the city of Sverdlovsk in the Ural mountains on May 1, 1960. The incident disrupted the Paris summit talks between the Soviet Union, United States, France and Britain.

Nilsen, 60, claims that during a visit to the U.S.S.R some months after the incident, Soviet officials told him two Russian agents posing as Turkish mechanics had planted a bomb in the tail of the black-painted U-2 at a Turkish airbase.

The Norwegian said he was told the device exploded over Soviet territory.

His book is not specific about which Turkish airfield was used for the alleged sabotage but the United States claimed at the time the U-2 had left Incirlik bound for its base at Adana, Turkey.

The late Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev noted soon after the incident that Powers did not use the standard emergency ejection device when the U-2 was brought down.

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Khruschev suggested an explosive device was on board to destroy the plane if the pilot ejected and that Powers feared being killed in the blast.

Nilsen was convicted of espionage in December 1967, but released two years later on humanitarian grounds after developing asthma.

His links with the Soviets began during World War II when he worked with Russians against the Nazi invasion. At his trial, he was alleged to have been a Soviet agent until the mid-1960s.

Powers served less than two years of a 10-year jail term for espionage before being released in a spy exchange. He died in a helicopter accident in the United States in 1977.

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