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Cyprus to honour the fallen heroes of doomed Noratlas

The military cemetery in Macedonitissa with a Noratlas transport aircraft, the same type used to airlift a Greek commando unit in 1974.

An aircraft, similar to Noratlas transport plane which was shot down by friendly fire during the 1974 Turkish invasion, will be unveiled on the 44th anniversary of Turkey’s offensive against Cyprus on Friday.

The unveiling ceremony, to take place at the crash site, has been described as a small token of appreciation and respect for the Greek commandos and crew of the Noratlas, killed during operation NIKI 4, in the early hours of Monday, July 22, 1974.

The state will honour the 28 Greek commandos and four crew members who arrived in Cyprus at a most critical time to help as the Turkish invasion of 1974 was unfolding but died in the line of duty.

Items that were unearthed from the site of the Makedonitissa Tomb, where the plane crashed, will be on display. President Nicos Anastasiades will unveil the plane after a memorial service at a nearby church for those killed and those still missing since the Turkish invasion.

Greece will be represented by National Defence Minister Panos Kamenos, Georgios Varemenos, Second Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Republic, as well as representatives of Greek fighters’ associations and relatives of the crew on board the fatal flight, part of operation NIKI 4 (Victory 4) to Nicosia.

Presidential Commissioner, Photis Photiou told CNA that the aircraft to be unveiled on Friday is “a small symbol of respect and gratitude as well as an honour” for the commandoes and crew who took part in that tragic operation, Victory 4, that aimed to provide back up at Nicosia International Airport.

Noratlas, along with other Greek transport planes, set off in an operation code-named “Victory”, to transport a battalion of Greek commandos from Souda, Crete to Nicosia, to help in the heavy fighting that took place at Nicosia International Airport. Greek aircraft however, were caught in friendly fire, which resulted in the loss of 32 men and the destruction of three aircraft.

During the crash, 16 of the commandos, whose bodies were located in the area, were buried at Lakatamia military cemetery, in Nicosia suburb. One commando, Thanasis Zafiriou, survived the crash. He died in September 2016. The remaining commandos and crew were found inside the Noratlas plane when it was recently unearthed. Their remains were identified and returned to their families. Three commandos still remain missing.

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