Turkish F-16s force Syrian A320 to land in Ankara

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Turkish fighter jets intercepted and forced a Syrian Arab Airlines Airbus A320 to land in Ankara on 10 October after the aircraft was suspected of carrying "illegal cargo".

The aircraft had around 37 passengers and crew on board and was allowed to depart for Damascus at 22:30 local after Turkish officials searched its cargo hold and confiscated several boxes, according to news reports.

The A320 was on its way from Moscow when two Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters intercepted it as it entered Turkish air space, say reports.

Turkey claims it acted within established international rules and regulations. Quoted by the Anadolu news agency, Binali Yildirim, Turkey's minister of transport, maritime affairs and communications, says: "The Syrian passenger plane was forced to land in Ankara. Experts conducted an inspection of the plane's cargo, seized the cargo and took them out of the plane as the cargo was not suitable for a civil plane under international rules and regulations.

"Air space must be utilised for peaceful purposes. Otherwise, we will use our rights stemming from national and international laws. We used the rights on Wednesday and will use them in the future whenever necessary."

Images in the local media indicate the aircraft is registered as YK-AKE. According to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, the A320 is a 1999-built airframe powered by International Aero Engines V2500 powerplants and configured to seat 151 passengers.