Turkish F-16 fighter jets intercepted a civilian flight from Moscow to Damascus on Thursday. Now an amateur video made by passengers has been released, showing balaclava-clad Turkish soldiers entering the plane.
Digital Journal reported on the story on Thursday, where Turkey was claiming to have found munitions aboard the civilian airliner, which was traveling from Moscow to Damascus.
The Turkish F-16 fighter jets had intercepted the Syrian Air Airbus A-320 plane as it entered Turkish airspace en route from Moscow. The plane was then forced to land in Ankara's international airport at 5:15 pm local time, as they had suspicions that the plane was carrying "certain equipment in breach of civil aviation rules."
A passenger, Fatima al-Saman, told RT that Turkish officials were interested in some spare parts purchased in Russia by a businessman, that he was taking to Syria. Al-Saman added that as far as she could tell, these were clearly not weapons.
“They started unloading some packages. They opened them, took pictures. There were many people. We all saw what was in there. There were no weapons. It was clear even to the untrained eye!” said al-Saman.
She further said that the search only involved the luggage, and that passengers were mainly ignored by the Turkish officials.
While the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, had reportedly said that the plane and passengers were free to leave after the initial search, the plane had to spend several additional hours on the ground, as Turkish officials completed a “paperwork routine.”
According to the plane's crew and passengers, the Turkish security personnel, with their faces covered by black balaclavas (as can be seen in the video above), were trying to force the pilot and crew to sign papers, fraudulently describing the incident as an emergency landing. The authorities reportedly beat members of the crew who refused to sign these documents. The plane's captain can be seen in the video, bandaging an injury to his wrist, caused by handcuffs.
Russian diplomats that arrived at the airport were not allowed access to the passengers. This is reportedly in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said, “We are troubled that the lives of the passengers aboard the plane, including 17 Russian citizens were put at risk by this inappropriate act. Turkey did not inform Russia that Russian citizens were among those detained on the plane. We found this out through the press.”
According to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, after Turkish security had confiscated its "suspicious" cargo, the Syrian plane was granted a departure clearance. After a nine-hour delay, the plane finally departed Turkey's Esenboga airport at 2:30am local time.
Davutoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey is determined to stop any transfer of weapons to the Syrian government and Ankara has now banned Turkish passenger flights from entering Syrian airspace.
The minister said, "All civilian flights in Syrian airspace have been stopped, since it is no longer safe."
Tensions between Turkey and Syria have escalated since a Syrian shell killed five civilians in the border town of Akcakale last week.