Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the cargo Turkey seized from a Syrian passenger plane that was forced to land in Ankara contained military equipment and ammunition destined for Syria's government.
Erdogan told reporters Thursday that a Russian supplier had provided the illicit cargo. He did not elaborate on where Turkey received the intelligence or who in Russia had provided the materials. Earlier, Syrian officials had denied the plane was carrying any military cargo.
Turkish military jets forced the plane to land late Wednesday in the Turkish capital on suspicion that it was carrying weapons from Russia to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. A crew member on the plane said Turkish authorities handcuffed them and made them lay on the ground when searching the plane.
The Syrian Air flight was allowed to complete its trip to Syria early Thursday, after Turkey confiscated what it called illicit cargo.
Syria responded strongly to the forced landing and cargo seizure Thursday, saying Turkey's decision was "hostile and reprehensible" and that it amounted to piracy.
Russia, a top ally of Assad, demanded an explanation from Turkey Thursday, saying its actions threatened the lives and safety of the passengers on board, which included 17 Russian citizens. Reuters reported that Russia's ambassador in Turkey was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Thursday.
Turkish troops have repeatedly shelled Syrian military targets in recent days in response to Syrian artillery rounds that landed just inside Turkey.
Turkish military chief General Necdet Ozel said Wednesday that his forces will respond with "greater force" if Syrian shelling continues to spill across the border. He was speaking on a visit to the Turkish border village of Akcakale, where Syrian artillery killed five Turkish civilians last week.
Syria's President Assad has been fighting a 19-month uprising against his rule that has killed tens of thousands of people.
A Syrian youth holds a child wounded by Syrian Army shelling near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria, October 11, 2012.
A Syrian volunteer carries a child wounded by Syrian Army shelling at Dar al-Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria, October 11, 2012.
Turkish soldiers in a military vehicle patrol the Turkish-Syrian border near the village of Hacipasa in Hatay province, Turkey October 11, 2012.
Smoke, caused by mortar bombs and gunfire during clashes between the Syrian Army and rebels, rises from the Syrian border town of Azmarin as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border near the village of Hacipasa in Hatay province October 11, 2012.
A Turkish armored personnel carrier drives out of a military border post on the Turkish-Syrian border near the village of Hacipasa in Hatay province, southern Turkey, October 9, 2012.
A photo from Syria's national news agency SANA shows the wreckage of a bus after a bomb exploded in al-Zablatani, in Damascus, Syria, October 9, 2012.
Children play on a destroyed armored personnel carrier belonging to forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Azaz, in northern Syria near the border with Turkey, October 8, 2012.
This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows Free Syrian Army fighters on top of a military truck that was captured from the Syrian Army, Khirbet al-Jouz, Idlib, Syria, October 7, 2012.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Hanano barracks after clashes with Free Syrian Army forces, Aleppo, Syria, October 7, 2012.
This handout photo from Syria's national news agency SANA shows cars after an explosion near police headquarters in Damascus, Syria, October 7, 2012.
A Syrian boy, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between government forces and rebels, plays near his tent at a refugee camp near the Turkish border, Azaz, Syria, October 7, 2012.
A resident holds a rifle next to a member of the Free Syrian Army at Al-Lujat, near Dara, October 7, 2012.