Army: Missiles Found on Lebanon-Serbia Flight for Training Purposesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Two U.S.-bound missiles that were found on a passenger flight from Lebanon to Serbia had been used as part of a U.S. military training for the Lebanese army and were being shipped back after the exercise concluded, the military said in a statement on Monday.
“The missiles were being sent from Beirut to the American company that produced them. They were in the army's possession for training purposes,” the statement said.
It added that the return was in accordance "with administrative and legal measures after the training ended."
“The two missiles that were found on a passenger flight from Lebanon to the United States via Serbia were part of a U.S. military aid for the Lebanese army. They were handed to Lebanon in September for training,” well informed sources confirmed to al-Joumhouria daily.
“The armor-piercing missiles were being shipped back to the U.S. after the army completed the training. The process was carried out within the legal formalities and under the cognition of the concerned Lebanese and American authorities,” the sources stressed.
Serbian investigators remain unconvinced on Monday, saying police found traces of suspected explosive materials on the cargo, The Associated Press reported.
The Serbian army said the missiles were being sent from Beirut to the American company that produced them. It said the return was in accordance "with administrative and legal measures after the training ended."
The Serbian public prosecutors' office said Monday in a statement emailed to the AP news agency that it was investigating findings by border police that the packages "are suspected to contain explosive materials." It said the investigation also focused on where the missiles came from and what was their final destination.
"We hope that our expertise will be finished this week," prosecution spokesman Ivan Markovic said, adding that the final report could take time "because some of the information is located in foreign countries."
Serbia's N1 television has said the packages, with two guided armor-piercing missiles, were discovered Saturday by a sniffer dog after an Air Serbia flight landed at Belgrade airport from Beirut. Serbian media said documents listed the final destination for the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles as Portland, Oregon, with a stopover in London.
The American-made projectiles can be fired from air, sea or ground platforms. They are also launched from drones in the U.S. fight against terrorism. The practice version of Hellfire is fitted with an inert warhead without explosives.
A U.S. official familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case, said the missiles are "inert training dummies."
"There was no explosive residue, no warhead and no engine," he said.
These are formally called "captive air training missiles" and they had been sent to Lebanon by their producer, Lockheed Martin, for the Lebanese armed forces to practice mounting them on their Cessna planes, according to the official.
He said it is not clear how the Serbs picked up explosive residue on the crates, but added it was possible that it was a mistake or that someone who loaded them in Lebanon may have gotten some residue on them.
The head of Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport issued a statement saying that the missiles do not contain any explosives.
Fadi al-Hassan said the transport "happened in coordination with the Army Command and in accordance to the administrative, legal and security measures taken at the airport."