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.
"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."