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Five Eastern European men were detained and their plane was impounded and grounded at Don Muang Airport on Saturday after it was found loaded with tons of war weapons.
Government Spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn declined to reveal where the plane was from and its its destination, saying Thai authorities are investigating the five men reportedly from Belarus and Kazakhstan.
A TV footage showed military trucks believed to be loaded with the confiscated weapons left Don Muang Airport. The footage also showed the grounded plane.
Thai TV reported that the weapons were transferred in the
Russian-built IL-76 military air transport bearing the designation AWG 732
the plane earlier arrived at Don Mueang airport once in the morning for refueling before departing for North Korea after it had loaded with the heavy weaponry and asked to refuel again at the airport at 4pm.
Thai authorities found massive numbers of the shoulder-launched missile weapon including rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), anti-aircraft SAM (surface to air missiles) and ammunition.
Thai authorities said the airplane was believed to be carrying the weapons to Sri Lanka
an Ilyushin 76 transport from Kazakhstan
foreigners comprised 5 people said Alex SAN between sites associated Asset Management Limited (Alexandr Zrybnev) age 53 years, Mr. Victor Alberto La Balance drug Software (Viktor Abdullayev). 58-year-old Tata said Victor Lee Sun Dot Software (Vitaliy Shumkov) age 54 years, Mr. Mikhail Coffee Sarah Lewis Drug Inc. (ILyas Issakov) all of nationality, age 53, Kazakhstan. (Mikhail Petukhou) อายุ 54 Mr. Mikhail P. Two pairs (Mikhail Petukhou) Age 54 years Nationality Belarus.
One suspect told authorities that the aircraft flew from Russia to North Korea where the weapons were loaded.
One unconfirmed report says the plane had made regular trips across the region.
In Colombo, officials said such an aircraft could not have landed in any of Sri Lanka's airports without prior authorization. Moreover, with the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas, they said, there was no way large quantities of weapons could be illegally delivered by air.
The air force officer said the aircraft was flown by a special-forces team from Georgia.
Originally posted by mrmonsoon
May I present two possibilities.....
1) Weapons and parts headed to N.K.
This can be guns/gun/tank/artillery parts/plane parts......
2) This might be weapons/parts originating from N.K. and headed to:
Iran/Syria/Hamas terrorist's/hezbolla terrorists/Chechen terrorists-I am sure Russia would just love that...
Reminds me of those boat loads of weapons intercepted by Israel headed to Hamas/Hezbolla terrorists.
Giorgy Bokuchava, the head of Georgian transport administration, confirmed the plane belongs to Air West but said it was leased last month to the SP Trading, a company in Ukraine
"Air West Georgia is registered in Batumi, Georgia, but its office is physically located in Ukraine. The airplane in question was leased to the Ukrainian company SP Transporting Limited," he said.
Officials in Kazakhstan said the aircraft had previously been owned by a Kazakh airline before being sold to the Georgian firm two months ago.
"This aircraft was previously in the register of Kazakhstan and was sold to a Georgian airline by our private airline and removed from the state register of Kazakhstan on October 7, 2009," Radilbek Adimolda, the head of Kazakhstan's Civil Aviation Commission told reporters in the capital Astana.
"Until spring of this year it belonged to private Kazakh airline, East Wing. It was then bought by Kazakh airline Beibarys, which in turn in October of this year sold the plane to Georgian airline Air West Georgia"
But adding to the mystery, Kazakh officials said the aircraft had been leased by the Georgian firm to a company operating out of New Zealand with a name similar to one mentioned by Georgian officials.
"According to the information of the Kazakh diplomatic mission in Thailand and competent organs in Kazakhstan, the detained Ilyushin-76 aircraft was... rented to a New Zealand company, SP Trading Limited, to carry out the delivery of cargo," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov told reporters.
"They thought it was a civilian freight flight, carrying oil-drilling pipes and other equipment for oil drilling," said defence lawyer Somsak Saithong.
"They have delivered such equipment a few times," the lawyer said, adding that three of the crew were trained pilots.
Hugh Griffiths, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the plane had also been registered under a company named Beibars, linked to the Serbian arms trafficker Tomislav Damnjanovic, and with three companies identified by the US Treasury as companies controlled by Mr Bout.
Mr Griffiths is monitoring air cargo companies involved in arms trafficking. ”They are like flocks of migrating birds, these aircraft. They change from one company to another because the previous company has either been closed down for safety reasons or been identified in a UN trafficking report,” he said.
The arms dealers had changed the plane’s country of registration to Georgia because the EU had banned all cargo carriers registered in Kazakhstan, where Beibars is registered.
Mr Griffiths said the past owners of the aircraft had been documented by the UN as trafficking arms to Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Chad. He said the plane had also been used to ship arms from the Balkans to Burundi in October.