Greece complains to Serbia over mortar cargo plane crash

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greece filed an official complaint with Serbia on Monday after a cargo plane carrying mortar ammunition crashed while attempting an emergency landing in northern Greece.

“The Greek ambassador in Belgrade has been instructed to make a complaint to the Serbian (government) to stress the need for Greek authorities to be notified in advance about the nature of the cargo,” said a Greek government official who requested anonymity pending an official announcement.

Eight crew members on the An-12 cargo plane, operated by a Ukrainian company, were killed in the crash Saturday outside the northern Greek city of Kavala. The crash was followed by at least two hours of explosions.

Serbian officials said the plane had been carrying 11.5 tons of Serbian-made mortar ammunition to Bangladesh, and had been due to make a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

Mine clearance crews were working at the crash site for a second day, in a cordoned-off field around 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Kavala International Airport. The ammunition was scattered over a 500-meter radius and was expected to take several days to clear.

Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said no hazardous substances were detected following a crash site inspection by army specialists from a nuclear, chemical and biological defense division.

All the dead crew members were believed to be Ukrainian nationals, Artopios said. Their recovered remains were taken to the nearby city of Komotini to start the identification process.

The crash caused power outages in several villages near the crash site, with repair work held up by the ordnance removal, officials from the electricity regulator said.

Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday that the ammunition had been made by a private Serbian manufacturer, adding that the plane had also been due to make stops in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Ahmedabad, India, before reaching the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. ___

Derek Gatopoulos reported from Athens.

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