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Turkey Defends Syrian Plane Interception

  • VOA News

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev seen during a press conference in Ankara, October 11, 2012.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev seen during a press conference in Ankara, October 11, 2012.

Turkey is defending its decision to intercept a Syrian-bound plane that it says was carrying military equipment and ammunition destined for Syria's government.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Syrian-bound passenger jet, travelling from Moscow to Damascus earlier this week, was carrying illicit cargo provided by a Russian supplier. Erdogan did not elaborate on where Turkey received the intelligence or who in Russia had provided the materials.

Syrian officials have denied the plane was carrying any military cargo. Russia, a top ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, demanded an explanation from Turkey, saying its actions threatened the lives and safety of the passengers on board.

The Syrian Air flight was intercepted by fighter jets late Wednesday in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The plane was allowed to complete its trip to Syria early Thursday without the cargo.

The incident has increased tensions between Turkey and Syria who in recent weeks have exchanged artillery fire across their shared border.

Meanwhile inside Syria, activists say six rebels were killed in an attack on a military checkpoint in Dera'a province that left 14 soldiers dead. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights adds that air bombardments and heavy clashes are taking place in Idlib, Deir Izzour and Aleppo provinces.

Syria's President Assad has been fighting a 19-month uprising against his rule that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The observatory says 260 Syrians were killed in fighting Thursday including 86 civilians, 60 rebel fighters, 13 defected soldiers, and 92 regime forces.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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