Cyprus Mail

Apology for tardy identification of Greeks killed in 1974

Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Photis Photiou (right)

Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Photis Photiou on Monday apologised on behalf of the Cyprus government to the families of Greek soldiers, shot down by friendly fire in 1974, for the delay in excavating and identifying their remains.
During a visit to the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) lab at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics in Nicosia, with Greek ambassador Ilias Fotopoulos, Photiou said that the remains of another 15 of the 31 Greek commandos killed in the incident had now been identified.
The remains were only exhumed last year.
The latest identifications have brought the total to 28 out of 31. Three more must yet be identified.
“Today is a difficult day for all of us,” said Photiou. “It is a day filled with mixed feelings, feelings of pride… gratitude and respect for the families who for 42 years have waited patiently… to bury the remains of their relatives… I express a big apology, on behalf of the state to the families of our heroes for the long delay in proceeding with the excavation.”
The Noratlas aircraft was shot down on July 22, 1974 by friendly fire as Greek Cypriot soldiers mistook it for a hostile aircraft. The plane was buried where it crashed at Makedonitissa in Nicosia, where a memorial was built after the invasion. It carried 28 commandos and four crew. Only one commando survived after he jumped out of the flaming transport plane before it crashed.
Fotopoulos expressed his gratitude to the Cyprus government and the members of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics.
“Our duty is to talk to the relatives and provide them with the right information in order to complete as soon as possible the return of the remains to Greece,” he said.
Thirteen – out of 15 – Noratlas aircraft reached Cyprus as part of the ill-fated mission. Two more, badly damaged by the friendly fire were recently located buried in a 10-metre ditch inside the UN-controlled Nicosia airport after a tip-off from a Greek Cypriot who worked there in 1974. No decision has been taken to excavate them as yet.

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