By George Psylides
Crews have found part of the fuselage and the cockpit of a Greek military transport plane shot down by friendly fire in July 1974, a government official said on Tuesday.
Authorities are searching for the remains of Greek airborne commandos who were on board the Noratlas aircraft, which was buried at Makedonitissa military cemetery.
The soldiers were killed when the plane was shot down over Nicosia airport during the Turkish invasion early on July 22.
Fotis Fotiou, Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, said part of the fuselage and the cockpit have been located and work would continue to unearth the entire section before experts started searching for the remains.
The search is slow as there was the risk of digging up explosives the commandos were carrying with them.
The ill-fated aircraft carried 28 commandos and four crew. Only one commando survived after he jumped out of the flaming transport plane before it crashed.
The remains of 12 others killed in the incident have been identified through DNA tests but 19 are still missing, believed to have been buried along with the aircraft’s fuselage.
The aircraft was part of operation Niki, victory in Greek, a secret mission to lend assistance to Cypriot forces battling invading Turkish troops.
Thirteen aircraft reached Cyprus. In addition to the plane that crashed near Makedonitissa, two others took heavy damage – also from friendly fire – and were unable to fly back to Greece. The two aircraft were torched.