Cyprus Mail

Excavations resume Monday to locate downed 1974 plane

Excavations in Lakatamia came to nothing

Work to unearth a military transport plane in search for the remains of Greek airborne commandos killed in July 1974 will start on Monday at a military cemetery near the defunct Nicosia airport.

Excavation works at the Tomb of Makedonitissa in search of the commandos’ remains, killed when their Noratlas plane was shot down by friendly fire during the Turkish invasion will be carried out in three phases, Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Issues Fotis Fotiou said.

Details of the operation were discussed on Friday, focusing mainly on personnel safety issues since it is not known whether explosives were also buried in the area.

The ill-fated aircraft carried 28 commandos and four crew. Only one commando survived.

The remains of 12 others killed in the incident have been identified through DNA tests but 19 were still missing, believed to have been buried along with the aircraft’s fuselage.

“Everyone’s wish is for the remains of the rest of the soldiers to be located and identified. We are already 41 years late and its time we deliver the remains of all those who died for the freedom of Cyprus to their families,” Fotiou said.

The first phase entails preparing the area, followed by the excavation on August 20. The third depended on when the excavation would be completed and it involved restoring the area to its previous condition.

The aircraft was part of operation ‘Niki,’ victory in Greek, a secret operation on July 21 to carry a battalion of Greek commandos from Crete to Cyprus in 15 aircraft.

Thirteen made to Cyprus – one returned to Crete and the other landed in Rhodes.

Excavations to trace the commandos’ remains at the Lakatamia military cemetery wrapped up in May with no success so the search is being moved to the Tomb of Makedonitissa, a military cemetery and war memorial.

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