Turkish F-16 fighter jets intercepted a passenger plane heading from Moscow to Syria and forced it to land at an Ankara airport Wednesday, Turkish state television reported.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the official Anadolu news agency that the Syrian plane had been forced to land at Esenboga airport after reports that it was carrying cargo "not suitable according to rules of civil aviation." Davutoglu said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been briefed about the Syrian plane.
Moscow is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, and Turkish news reports said that the plane was suspected to be carrying weapons. Reached by telephone Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said it had no additional information to immediately share about the incident.
The state news agency reported that Turkish authorities were searching the cargo area of the plane late Wednesday as television aired images of a airplane on the darkened runway.
Bilal Eksi, director general of the Turkish Civil Aviation Department, told Anadolu that the Syrian plane had 37 people on board, including crew members.
Turkey has traded fire with neighboring Syria in recent days, infuriated by attacks on Turkish soil that killed villagers in border towns. Its top military commander warned earlier Wednesday that Turkey would respond forcefully to any further shelling of its territory.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: A Syrian passenger plane sits at an Ankara airport on Wednesday. Credit: Cem Oksuz / Anadolu