Friday, November 25, 2005

CIA 'may have flown prisoners across Austria'

VIENNA - The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may have flown detained terrorist suspects across neutral Austrian airspace in 2003, said a newspaper report on Wednesday.




The newspaper Kurier said that the U.S. transport plane in question had crossed Austria without permission. When the affair became known this week, the opposition Social Democrats and Greens demanded clarification, and that an official protest be sent to Washington.

The report came at the same time as current inquiries in several European Union states about stopovers by CIA aircraft allegedly with prisoners on board.

The Austrian overflight in January 2003 was confirmed by Air Force commander Major General Erich Wolf in a radio interview Wednesday morning.

He said there had been an alert, and Austrian military jets had taken off to intercept the suspect aircraft. But the authorities had decided there were no grounds for suspicion that Austrian airspace was being misused.

Wolf said that the type of plane was also used for civilian flights. Under Austrian neutrality, only unauthorized foreign military overflights are banned.

Wolf was reacting to a report in the German paper Berliner Zeitung that on January 21, 2003, a Hercules AC-130 aircraft of the CIA airline "Tepper Aviation" had taken off from the U.S. military base at Frankfurt and headed for Azerbaijan.

The aircraft had crossed Austrian airspace - reportedly on a civilian flight to Baku - and been escorted to the border by two Austrian "Draken" military jets. The Austrian pilots had taken photographs, and there had been an official protest to Washington, the newspaper report said.

However, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Astrid Harz said she could not confirm that a protest had been made.

Source : Here

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