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India questions detained UAE air force crew

INDIA: India continued to question Tuesday the crew of an arms-laden United Arab Emirates air force plane that was being detained in the eastern city of Kolkata on its way to China, officials said.

The plane bound for Hanyang, in China’s Hubei province, was grounded in Kolkata on Monday after arms and ammunition which had not been declared by the crew were found on board the plane from Abu Dhabi.

“UAE government authorities have approached us to say it was a technical mistake the pilot has committed” by not disclosing the weapons, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters in New Delhi.

“In view of the friendly relations between the UAE and India we will take a decision on this,” he said without elaborating.

The military transport plane was given permission to land in Kolkata on Sunday to refuel on its way to China. It was taken into custody after the weapons were found by customs officials. The pilot and eight crew members were still being questioned, officials in Kolkata said.

“It has been a very sensitive matter,” Joyati Ghosh, a Central Industrial Security Force commandant, told AFP.

“Officials from the ministries of defence, external affairs and finance are having talks with the UAE air force authorities to resolve the issue.”

Ghosh said the nine-member crew the captain, a co-pilot and a navigator as well as two engineers, an airman and three others were staying in a city hotel under tight security.

A customs official who declined to be named said “all but three were carrying valid military passports and visas,” adding that “the identity of three members are in question.”

A top UAE official said the UAE was in contact with the Indian government to follow up on the incident, the official WAM news agency reported late on Monday. “The UAE confirms the depth of the relationship between the two countries and its respect for the sovereignty of the republic of India,” said Jomaa al-Jonaibi, a director at the UAE’s ministry of foreign affairs. KOLKATA, Wednesday, AFP



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