Monday, March 14, 2016

"Missiles found at Belgrade airport were used for training"

(Getty Images, file, illustration puposes)
Media reports on Monday said that two guided missiles have been found by Serbian authorities at Belgrade's Nikola Tesla Airport.


According to Reuters, the U.S.-made guided Hellfire missiles were found wooden crates at the airport and were "bound for Portland, Oregon, in the United States" having arrived on an Air Serbia flight from Beirut, "and due to be transferred to another plane."

The agency reported this quoting "a source at the prosecutor's office" who spoke on Monday, adding that Serbian authorities are now "investigating them." At the same time, Air Serbia said it was "helping with the investigation" and that "security and safety were its main priorities."

Reacting to these reports, the Lebanese military said on Monday that the missiles found in a passenger airplane on the Beirut-Belgrade route were used for training, "and contained no explosives," adding the objects were being "shipped back to the American company that manufactures them, in line with administrative and legal measures after the training has been performed."

It was reported late on Sunday that two missiles with explosive charges were found at Nikola Tesla Airport as they were being transported from Beirut to Portland, via Belgrade and London.

The missiles were packaged as training mockups and were accompanied by appropriate documentation, but trained dogs sensed the presence of explosives, and after the packaging was opened, warheads were discovered, and an investigation launched.

"Experts are determining whether the missiles were equipped with live or training warheads. They were packed in proper transportation crates and supplied with paperwork which is also being scrutinized," Reuters quoted its source in Belgrade as saying earlier in the day on Monday.

A Lebanese security source in Beirut, meanwhile, said these were "training missiles used by the Lebanese army and were being sent back to the United States," and adding:

"The Lebanese and U.S. authorities were aware of the shipment and the missiles posed no threat to the public."

The agency noted in its report that the AGM 114 Hellfire is manufactured by Lockheed Martin in two versions: as "a high-explosive warhead and a practice weapon."

"An inert AGM 114 Hellfire missile that had arrived in Cuba by mistake in 2014 was retrieved last month by U.S. officials and Lockheed Martin representatives," Reuters quoted a statement made at the time by the Cuban Foreign Ministry said.

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