Missiles said fired at Russian plane over Syria

April 30, 2013 at 12:18 AM
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MOSCOW, April 30 (UPI) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was taking emergency action after two missiles were fired at a Russian commercial passenger jet flying over Syria.

The Nordwind Airlines Airbus A320 with 159 passengers and eight crew members had to take evasive action to avoid the two surface-to-air missiles fired by unidentified assailants, the non-governmental Interfax news agency said, citing an informed source in Moscow.

No one on the chartered plane was injured and the jet full of vacationers returning from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheik landed safely and on time in Kazan, the capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism said.

"The Syrian side informed us that on Monday morning, unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles that exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to a Russian airline," the agency quoted the source as saying.

"The crew was able to move the aircraft to the side in time, saving the lives of the passengers," the source said.

The white commercial aircraft with a deep red tail section is believed to have been intentionally targeted, the source told Interfax, "but it remains unclear whether the attackers knew it was Russian or not."

The Foreign Ministry immediately took "emergency measures to clarify all the circumstances of this situation, including making contact with Syrian authorities," ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The ministry gave no update on its investigation early Tuesday.

Syria's Foreign Ministry and Syrian Armed Forces had no immediate comment, nor did the opposition Syrian National Council or Free Syrian Army.

The top executive of Syria's flag-carrier airline was quoted by Russia's government-funded television network RT as saying she knew of no airline attack at all.

"We contacted the service that monitors traffic within Syrian airspace. None of the air-traffic control services or other ground services at the airports in Damascus and Latakia have confirmed the information of a Russian plane being fired at," Syrian Arab Airlines Director General and Chief Executive Officer Ghaida Abdullatif said.

Washington also had no immediate comment.

Russia is one of the staunchest allies of the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad, which is fighting to retain control of Syria amid a civil war that he seen more than 70,000 people killed.

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