MOSCOW (AFP) – Unidentified assailants fired two land-to-air missiles at a Russian passenger plane carrying over 150 people when it flew over Syria on Monday, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an informed source in Moscow.
“The Syrian side informed us that on Monday morning unidentified people had fired two land-to-air missiles which exploded in the immediate proximity of a civilian plane belonging to a Russian airline,” the source was quoted as saying.
“The crew was able to move the aircraft to the side on time and save the lives of the passengers,” the source said, adding that it was unclear whether the attackers knew that the plane was Russian.
The plane was returning from a resort in Egypt, a popular destination for Russian tourists.
The federal air transport agency Rosaviation issued a statement later Monday, saying the crew of a charter plane flying from the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh to the Russian city of Kazan had detected “signs of combat actions” when it was flying over Syria.
The crew of the A-320 plane, which belongs to NordWind Airlines, believed that those actions threatened the aircraft’s safety, said the agency, adding that the plane landed in Kazan on time.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a separate statement that it was taking “urgent measures” to clarify the situation and was in contact with the Syrian authorities. It said the plane carried 159 passengers.
Neither the air transport agency nor the foreign ministry made any mention of the missiles.
Russia, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest allies, is firmly opposed to foreign intervention in Syria.