RTTurkish F-16 fighter jets forced a Syrian Air passenger plane to land in Ankara over suspicions that it was carrying "non-civilian" cargo. The Damascus-bound plane, en route from Moscow, has departed after a nine-hour inspection.
Ankara granted the Syrian plane a departure clearance, after Turkish security confiscated its suspicious cargo, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a local broadcaster.
The plane departed Esenboga airport in Turkey at 2:30am local time and, after its detour, arrived in Damascus an hour later at 12:30 GMT.
The passengers are all reportedly accounted for. None have commented on the incident since landing in Syria, and attempts to contact their cell phones were unsuccessful.
“Just because of the clear evidence that we received, we negotiated with our prime minister and decided to let the plane fly on to Syria with the passengers, but we are going to hold on to the material because of the ongoing investigation and the next steps,” he said. “Our investigation is continuing. Since there might be materials that were supposed to be declared but have not been, we are holding this material in our hands to continue to inspect.”
Although Davutoglu claimed that the plane and passengers were free to go, they had to spend several additional hours grounded as Turkish officials completed a “paperwork routine.” The plane’s crew and passengers told RT that the security units surrounding the plane were attempting to force the pilot and several of the crew to sign papers fraudulently describing the incident as an emergency landing. Some of those who refused were beaten, reports say.