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Dhaka Tribune

Plane carrying munitions for Bangladesh crashes in Greece killing all eight aboard

The aircraft was scheduled to land in Dhaka at 12 noon on Monday

Update : 17 Jul 2022, 08:28 PM

A Ukrainian cargo plane carrying munitions from Serbia to Bangladesh crashed near the city of Kavala in northern Greece late on Saturday, killing all eight crew members aboard, Serbian authorities and Meridian airline said on Sunday. 

Later in the day, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Bangladesh said that there was no arms in the plane, which it claimed was shipping mortar shells for Bangladesh Army and Border Guard Bangladesh for training purposes. 

The mortar shells were being carried from Serbia under a DGDP (Directorate General of Defense Purchase) procurement contract and the consignment was insured, the ISPR added. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian-based airline Meridian, which operated the aircraft, said the crash was not "linked to Ukraine or Russia".

Muhammed Kamrul Islam, executive director of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, told a local news portal that the plane was scheduled to land in Dhaka at 12 noon on Monday. 

Serbia said the flight was also due to stop in Riyadh and Ahmedabad in India before heading to Dhaka. 

Greek Civil Aviation authorities said the flight was heading from Serbia to Jordan, according to AP.

However, a Reuters’ source at Jordan's civil aviation regulatory commission denied initial reports that the plane was headed to Jordan. 

The source said that its flight itinerary included a stopover in Jordan’s Queen Alia international airport at 9:30 pm (0630 GMT), to refuel, state news agency Petra reported on Sunday.

Drone images from the scene showed smouldering debris from the Antonov An-12, a Soviet-built turboprop aircraft, strewn in fields. Greek authorities said there were eight crew members on board and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said they were all Ukrainian citizens.

Meridian, which operated the aircraft, said all the crew members were killed in the crash.

Serbia’s Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the plane was carrying 11.5 tonnes of products, including mortar and training shells, made by its defence industry. 

The buyer of the cargo was the Defence Ministry of Bangladesh, he said.

Meridian General Manager Denys Bogdanovych confirmed Serbia's account of events. 

Witnesses said the aircraft came down in a ball of flames before exploding on impact in corn fields around midnight local time. Earlier the pilot had reported engine trouble and had requested an emergency landing.

Greek authorities could not provide information on the aircraft's cargo or the crew. The special disaster response unit and army experts were dispatched to the scene, while local authorities issued a ban on people moving in the area.

Stefanovic said the cargo included illuminating mortar shells and training shells. It had taken off at 1840 GMT Saturday from Nis in Serbia.

"The plane carried 11.5 tonnes of products made by our defence industry. The buyer was the Bangladesh Defence Ministry," Stefanovic said.

He said the plane's cargo was owned by Serbian company Valir, a company registered to perform foreign trade activities of armament military equipment and other defence products.

Greek state TV ERT said the aircraft's signal was lost soon after the pilot requested an emergency landing from Greek aviation authorities due to an engine problem.

Amateur video footage uploaded on ertnews.gr showed the aircraft in flames descending fast before hitting the ground in what appeared to be an explosion.

Eyewitnesses told AFP on Saturday that they saw the aircraft on fire and heard explosions. 

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