Turkey: Syrian plane was carrying ammunition
The general manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency also blasted Turkey’s forced landing of the plane, calling it ‘‘contrary to regulations and aviation norms.’’
Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif told reporters in Damascus that the plane’s pilots were not asked to land but were instead surprised by Turkish F-16 fighter jets, which forced them to land.
A Syrian Airlines engineer who was aboard, Haithan Kasser, said armed Turkish officials boarded the plane and handcuffed the crew before inspecting packages that he said contained electrical equipment.
Abdul-Latif said the officials seized some packages after presenting official documents.
Turkey’s Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday that the cargo ‘‘was not suitable for a civil plane.’’
The Moscow airport that cleared the Syrian plane for takeoff denied there was any forbidden cargo on board.
‘‘No objects whose transportation would have been forbidden under aviation regulations were on board,’’ said Vnukovo Airport spokeswoman Yelena Krylova, ITAR-Tass reported
Krylova said all documentation related to the cargo was in order. She would not say who had sent the cargo.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman also denied that the plane carried any arms or prohibited goods and called on Turkey to return the plane’s full contents.
Also on Thursday, family and supporters of two journalists believed to be detained in Syria appealed in Istanbul for their release. Arzu Kadoumi said her husband Bashar Fahmi, a reporter for Al-Hurra network, and his Turkish cameraman, Cuneyt Unal, had been missing for 53 days.
Inside Syria, battles continued in the southern Idlib province that abuts the Turkish border as rebels sought to consolidate control of a strategic town on the country’s main north-south highway. Rebels said they captured Maaret al-Numan on Wednesday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes continued Thursday after rebels attacked a military convoy and nearby army checkpoints. The fighting killed more than a dozen people, the Observatory said.
The Observatory also said eight people were killed and another eight wounded when unknown gunmen fired on their bus near the coastal city of Tartous. Syria’s state news agency SANA said the men were Syrian workers returning from Lebanon.
Syrian opposition activists estimate more than 32,000 people have been killed since March 2011 when the uprising against Assad’s regime began.
In the southern province of Daraa, gunmen shot dead the brother of a member of Syria’s parliament while raiding his home, the Observatory and SANA said. The parliament member, Khalid al-Abboud, regularly defends the Syrian regime on TV.
The Observatory said gunmen also killed the son of another legislator, Mohammed Kheir al-Mashi, at his home in Idlib province.
Activist claims could not be independently verified because of restrictions on reporting in Syria.
State-run Syrian TV said there was an explosion in the capital Thursday night in front of the Ministry of Education and the Military Court. A Syrian official said the blast wounded two people and caused material damage. The official asked that his name not be used because he is not allowed to speak publicly.
Jordans contributed from Istanbul. Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; Nataliya Vasilyeva and Max Seddon in Moscow, also contributed to this report.