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Honduras Jets Shoot Down Cargo Plane; Ownership Still a Mystery

March 11, 1987|United Press International

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Honduran air force said Tuesday it shot down an unidentified cargo airplane "similar to a C-47" after its pilot flew into Honduran air space from the direction of Nicaragua and refused to identify himself.

A Nicaraguan diplomat said that shots from Nicaraguan ground forces may have turned the plane toward Tegucigalpa.

Both Nicaragua and the United States denied any knowledge of the origin of the plane, which was shot down late Monday night. U.S. officials in Washington theorized that the plane was involved in the drug trade, while Nicaragua suggested that it belonged to the U.S.-backed contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government.

A statement by the Honduran air force said the twin-engine, propeller-driven plane entered Honduran air space at 11:30 p.m. Monday from the southeast and flew over the eastern province of El Paraiso toward Guatemala, then was shot down by Honduran jet fighters in western Honduras not far from its border with Guatemala.

Warning Shots

"The detection of the aircraft, similar to a C-47, provoked the reaction of the Honduran air force combat planes," the statement said. "The plane was shot at after it was commanded to descend and after using all peaceful procedures and after firing warning shots."

There was no mention of survivors, and the plane still had not been identified late Tuesday.

Danilo Abud Vivas, Nicaragua's ambassador to Honduras, said his country's ground forces shot at a plane entering Nicaragua on Monday night, and that the plane turned and flew toward Honduras. He said he did not know if the plane was hit, and did not say where the incident took place.

"An anti-aircraft battery repelled a plane coming from Honduras. We suppose it was an airplane bringing supplies to the mercenary force of the contra revolution," Abud Vivas said. "We think it could be the same plane because that happened about the same time Honduras reported the incursion there."

No Missing Planes

"It is false to say the plane pertains to or could pertain to the Sandinista air force," he said. "We have no planes of this type, nor do we have any missing plane."

Relations have been tense between Honduras and Nicaragua since 1981, when the U.S.-backed rebels began staging raids into Nicaragua from Honduras along the often ill-defined and rugged 400-mile border.

"The unknown airplane was shot down near the town of Cucuyagua in Copan province near the border with Guatemala," the Honduran military said.

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