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News

Russia demands explanation over intercepted jet

Russia has demanded an explanation from Turkey after a passenger plane was forced to land in Ankara because it was suspected of having military cargo on board bound for Syria.

There were 17 Russians on board the plane that left Moscow headed for Damascus on Wednesday. Turkish fighter jets had intercepted the plane as it entered Turkish airspace and forced it to land.

"We are concerned that this emergency situation threatened the lives and security of the passengers," said a statement from the Russian foreign ministry.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said authorities had seized some of the cargo following suspicions that the plane had been carrying heavy weapons to Damascus. He declined to comment on what was in the seized cargo.

"We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians. It is unacceptable that such a transfer is made using our airspace," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Russia is known to deliver weapons to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The German dpa news agency quoted an interview from Lebanese TV station Al-Manar with Syrian transport minister Mahmud Said describing the incident as "air piracy." Syrian state media cautioned Turkey against "playing with fire."

Tensions on Syria and Turkey's common border have risen in the last week as violence from Syria's civil war has spilled over into Turkey. Shells fired from Syria have landed on the Turkish side and caused deaths, prompting Turkish military response.

mz/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)