Turkish Cypriots blame Syrian missile for blast near village

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – A Turkish Cypriot official said yesterday that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that missed its target and reached ethnically divided Cyprus may have been the cause of an explosion outside a village in east Mediterranean island notion’s breakaway north. No injuries were reported.

Kudret Ozersay, the north’s Foreign Minister, posted on his personal Facebook account that an initial assessment of the pre-dawn blast indicated that a Russian-made missile that was part of an anti-aircraft battery had missed its target during overnight airstrikes in Syria.

Ozersay said the missile likely blew up in flight because there was no impact crater and pieces of the object were found several kilometres from the main debris field outside the village of Tashkent, or Vouno, as it’s known by its Greek name.

He said the writing on debris matches that found on pieces of a Russian-made S-200 missile that crashed in Gaziantep, Turkey, in July last year.

According to Turkish Cypriot broadcaster BRT, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said no one was hurt in the explosion and that firefighting crews have contained a blaze that the burning debris had ignited.

Members of the northern Cypriot security forces gather at the scene where according to officials a suspected Russian-made missile exploded overnight in the divided island, during an Israeli aerial raid in Syria. – AFP

Police have cordoned off the main debris field and other locations in nearby villages where more pieces of debris have been found.

Tatar said that Turkish military authorities may assist in the ongoing investigation.

Intensive Israeli airstrikes against targets in Syria around 200 kilometres away were taking place at the time of the blast at around 1am local time.

Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides said government authorities are investigating the blast but refrained from speculating on its cause.

The explosion even shook residents of the divided capital Nicosia several kilometres away.