The remains of 15 Greek soldiers killed during an airborne operation in Cyprus during the 1974 invasion, have been identified and will be repatriated in the next few weeks, Presidential Commissioner Fotis Fotiou said on Monday.
The soldiers, part of a Greek commando battalion sent to Cyprus in July 1974, had been buried along with their transport aircraft, Noratlas, which was shot down by friendly fire while trying to land at Nicosia airport.
The burial site later became a military cemetery and the mound under which the Noratlas was buried, hosting a monument to the fallen.
The aircraft carried 28 commandos and four crew. Only one commando survived after he jumped out of the flaming transport plane before it crashed.
Others killed that night were buried elsewhere.
Fotiou said procedures will be completed as soon as possible so that the remains were repatriated within the next few weeks.
The aircraft was part of operation Niki, victory in Greek, a secret operation to lend assistance to Cypriot forces battling invading Turkish troops.
Thirteen – out of 15 – aircraft reached Cyprus, setting off from Crete in what many described as a suicide mission.
They were carrying the ‘A’ Commando Battalion whose men helped keep the Nicosia airport in Greek Cypriot hands before it was taken over by the United Nations.
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. This was done to erase any trace of Greek involvement since it was not officially at war with its NATO ally Turkey.