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Suspected stray Syrian anti-aircraft missile lands in Cyprus

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-07-02 10:04

A suspected stray anti-aircraft missile fired by Syria at Israeli military aircraft crashes into Cypriot soil near the capital of Nicosia, Cyprus, July 1, 2019. [Photo/IC]

NICOSIA -- A suspected stray anti-aircraft missile fired by Syria at Israeli military aircraft crashed into Cypriot soil near the capital of Nicosia in the early hours of Monday, Greek and Turkish Cypriot officials confirmed here on Monday.

An explosion occurred close to 1 am (22:00 GMT Sunday) on the slopes of the Pentadaktylos mountain range, which towers above Nicosia, causing a fire, which was put out soon, said Turkish Cypriot officials.

Debris collected at three locations in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus suggested that the stray object that had caused a flash in the night sky and exploded and caused a forest fire was an S-200 anti-aircraft missile.

A former leader of the Cypriot army, retired Lieutenant General Anreas Pentaras, said that from pictures of pieces of the object he saw on websites, he believed that it was a Russian-made S-200 anti-aircraft missile, which was built in the 1970s.

"What I saw in pictures was what I believe was the base of the wings of an S-200 with Russian letters on it. It could not be a drone plane as original information suggested, as drones are usually used for spying and do not carry explosives," Pentaras told state television.

He said that his suggestion was in line with events taking place in the region at the time. He said Israeli planes were attacking targets in the area of Damascus and Homs from the west and the missile was probably fired from the area of the city of Homs in the direction of Cyprus.

The pieces fell near three villages and one of them was collected from the yard of a house. Out of sheer luck no one was hurt.

The loud explosion was heard by many residents of Nicosia, which is only 10 kilometers from the point of the impact.

Cyprus's government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the authorities were in touch with the Turkish Cypriot administration offering help in the investigation of the incident.

"The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, thanked for the offer but he said that no assistance was needed," he added.

He also said that the Cypriot government is in touch with UNFICYP, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus, which polices a buffer zone between the two parts of Cyprus, in search of reliable information.

"The incident was a reminder of how fragile the situation in the region is. We wish it will remain an isolated incident," Prodromou added.

UNFICYP said it was in contact with the Turkish Cypriot side regarding the explosion and warned all sides against jumping to conclusions before an investigation takes place.

UNFICYP spokesperson Aleem Siddique told the Cyprus News Agency that "an investigation by the Turkish Cypriot side is currently underway and it is important that this be allowed to proceed before jumping to any conclusions."

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974, when Turkey intervened militarily following a military coup by Athens-backed Greek Cypriots.

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