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Monday, July 11, 2011

Confiscated Iranian weapons explode in Cyprus

From AFP:
Huge blasts in a seized Iranian arms cache at a Greek Cypriot naval base in southern Cyprus killed at least 12 people on Monday, triggering power and water outages at the height of the summer.

In what Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides called a "tragedy of Biblical dimensions" for the small Mediterranean island, the explosions devastated the adjacent Vassiliko power station.
The plant accounts for almost 60 percent of supply.

The blasts also caused massive damage to homes in the nearby village of Mari, forcing the evacuation of its population of 150 people, its mukhtar or headman, Nikos Asprou, told AFP.
Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said 62 people were injured, two of them seriously, announcing three days of official mourning with flags on state buildings to be flown at half-mast.

Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and Greek Cypriot National Guard commander Petros Tsaliklides resigned over the blasts at an emergency cabinet meeting, Stefanou said.

The defence ministry had held talks last week about the storage conditions after National Guard chiefs reportedly expressed concerns about them being kept in the open as temperatures touched 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

"Decisions were taken on protecting the material but unfortunately this was not possible as time ran out," Stefanou said, promising a "thorough investigation".
Here's the story behind the weapons, from Wikipedia:
The Monchegorsk (Мончегорск) was a Russian multipurpose cargo ship built in 1983 by Wärtsilä as the 10th ship of the SA-15 class Arctic freighters. The ship, named after the Russian town of Monchegorsk, was owned and operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company.

In early 2009 it became the centre of an international incident involving Iran, Russia, the US, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Cyprus. The ship was apprehended in the Red Sea by U.S. warships in Task Force 151 having left Iran. [4] Following an on board search suspicious military material was reported and the ship was escorted to Limassol Port on 29 January 2009.

The ship, registered with the Cyprus Merchant Marine was then subject to an international diplomacy struggle as to the fate of its cargo. The US and Israel maintained that the cargo was in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747 which sanctions Iranian arms exports.[5] Israel claimed that the intended destination of the cargo was Palestinian organizations in the Gaza strip,[6] a claim that Iran denied. [7]

Cypriot authorities proceeded to a limited search of on board containers, the result of which was referred to the security council for clarification. Once the breach was confirmed the cargo was confiscated and unloaded onto the island where it was stored in warehouses of the Cypriot National Guard. [8][9] The details of the contents from the 98 confiscated containers were not released to the public.