Turkish fighter jets intercepted a plane that took off in Russia and was headed for Syria on Wednesday and forced it to land in Ankara. Authorities say they found Russian-made ammunition and military equipment aboard, the Associated Press reports.
About 30 passengers were aboard the Syria Air flight out of Moscow bound for Damascus when Turkish F-16s fighter jets intercepted the plane under suspicion that it was carrying weapons, according to Turkish state media.
Turkish officials found 10 sealed boxes addressed to the Syrian Defense Ministry on the plane, which was grounded for nine hours, according to the Turkish television station TGRT. Officials didn't divulge the source of the intelligence tip that prompted the search nor the precise contents of the sealed boxes.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told TGRT that the country was "determined to stop the flow of weapons to a regime that carries out such ruthless massacres."
Turkey's Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim told the country's state news agency Anadolu that the flight violated international law, adding that the country would take similar action for future flights.
"The cargo was not suitable for a civil plane under international rules and regulations," Yildirim said. "An air space must be utilized for peaceful purposes. Otherwise, we will use our rights stemming from national and international laws. We used the rights on Wednesday and will use them in the future whenever necessary."
Both Russia and Syria responded harshly to the incident. According to the Twitter account of the Russian Foreign Ministry, spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the incident unnecessarily endangered passengers' lives.
Lukashevich: Russia insists that #Turkey explains the reasons behind its actions regarding Russian nationals and precludes their repetition— MFA Russia (@MFA_Russia) October 11, 2012
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Syria's foreign ministry said in a statement that the incident exemplified Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's "hostile policy" and accused the country of "harbouring terrorists," Reuters reported.
Wednesday's search-and-seizure was the latest in a steady increase in tensions between one-time allies Turkey and Syria. Last week, the bloody Syrian civil war poured across Syria's northern border when a Turkish border town was shelled, killing five. Turkey responded by returning fire and beefing up its military presence at the border.
The escalating conflict between the neighboring countries prompted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to deploy U.S. troops and military hardware to nearby Jordan in case the conflict continues to spill beyond Syria's border.
"We have been working with Jordan for a period of time now on a number of the issues that have developed as a result of what's happening in Syria," Panetta said in a statement. "We've also been working with [Jordan] to try to develop their own military and operational capabilities in the event of any contingency there."
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.