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article imageStray 'Russian-made missile' suspected of hitting northern Cyprus

By AFP     Jul 1, 2019 in World

Officials in northern Cyprus said Monday that a suspected stray Russian missile had exploded overnight just outside the divided island's capital during an Israeli air raid in Syria.

"According to preliminary findings, a Russian-made missile -- part of an air defence system triggered during an air raid against Syria -- fell on our country yesterday evening," the territory's foreign minister, Kudret Ozersay, wrote on Twitter.

The missile defence system may have been set off by Israeli air strikes that killed at least 15 people near Damascus and in Homs province late Sunday, according to a war monitor.

Russia supports the Syrian government in the eight-year war against rebel groups, and has provided it with extensive missile defence systems.

The markings on the debris were the same as those found on an S-200 missile that fell in Turkey last year, Ozersay added.

The object is thought to have exploded before hitting the ground.

No one was injured in the blast, which sparked a large fire, according to local media.

The charred patch of field left behind in the Taskhent region, known in Greek as Vouno, was cordoned off by authorities, an AFP photographer said, adding that police, military and Turkish-Cypriot politicians were on the scene.

It was just a dozen kilometres (seven miles) from the capital Nicosia, where a United Nations observer force monitors part of the green line that divides the island, but more than 200 kilometres from the Syrian coast.

The leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, said: "This is one of the bad consequences of the war in the region."

Turkey has had thousands of troops stationed in the northern third of the island since invading in 1974 in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.

Turkey is the only country to recognise the TRNC and UN-sponsored efforts to reunify the island have failed.

The foreign ministry of the Republic of Cyprus, which controls the remainder of the island, said it was consulting neighbouring countries on "what appears to have been an explosion in the air of a projectile".

"At the present time, no definitive conclusions can be drawn concerning last night's occurrence," it said.

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