Nigerian President orders probe of Ukrainian plane with weapons

15:24, 19 June 2009
World
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The crew members were questioned

Nigerian Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) on Thursday took over investigations into the circumstances surrounding the Ukrainian plane, which landed in northern Nigeria`s Kano State on Tuesday, loaded with arms and ammunition, the Nigerian Tribune newspaper reported Friday, Xinhua reported.

    It was gathered that the order was given by President Umaru Yar` Adua to the State Security Service (SSS) to hand over the main investigation to the DMI in order to get to the root of the matter.

    The crew members were said to have been handed over to the DMI and were on Thursday questioned to determine the truth behind the claim that the plane was actually heading for Guinea Bissau, but only stopped over in Nigeria to refuel when it ran into trouble with Nigerian security authorities.

    Reports had it that the Nigerian, who gave permission to the plane to land, was still in the custody of the SSS undergoing interrogations on why he did not seek approval from his superior officers before allowing the plane to land for refueling.

    The cargo plane, reportedly, had on board eight crates of various weapons and ammunition, said to include howitzers, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and mortars.

    The plane, with registration number UR-CAK, ran into trouble after refueling, when officials on duty noticed some suspicious information supplied by the crew in the flight discharge form, and strongly demanded to know the contents of the plane following the crew`s refusal to declare what the cargo plane was carrying.

    Security sources disclosed that the DMI was investigating the possibility of the cargo being meant for the Niger Delta region, where militants are currently holding sway.

    It was learnt that the need to unravel this became so strong based on the fact that the plane was Russian made, and that most of the weapons seized by the Joint Task Force (JTF) from militants during raids and confrontations in the Niger Delta were found to be Russian-made.

    Meanwhile, more arrests had been made in connection with the impounded Ukrainian plane.

    The number of arrests rose to eight on Thursday, with seven Ukrainians and one Nigerian, as the Ukrainian Embassy in Nigeria is assisting the military intelligence in its investigation.

    Sources said the military intelligence was working on the claims by the arrested persons that the impounded aircraft is a diplomatic one, and is trying to confirm this from the Ukraine and Equatorial Guinea governments.

Xinhua

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