“The first assessment is that a Russian-made missile, part of the air defense system, which was part of the air defense system that took place last night in the face of an airstrike against Syria, completed its range and fell into our country after it missed,” Turkish Cypriot foreign minister Kudret Ozersay said on Monday.
Turkish Cypriot officials said no one was hurt in the explosion which occurred around 1:00 am local time (22:00 GMT on Sunday) in the region of Tashkent, also known as Vouno, some 20 kilometers northeast of Nicosia.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci linked the incident to military operations in the Middle East. He said further investigation was needed to establish the cause of the huge blast.
“It is evident it is not something stemming from our soil … It is one of the bad sides of the war in the region falling into our country,” he said.
Ozersay said military officials were conducting tests on the debris at the crash site. The incident reportedly came at a time of Israeli airstrikes in Syria’s Homs and the suburbs of Damascus, which killed several civilians.
“Initial findings indicate the object that caused the explosion was either an aircraft carrying explosives or a direct explosive (missile). The writings and signs on the debris will allow us to understand exactly what happened soon,” Ozersay said.
A Greek Cypriot military analyst, Andreas Pentaras, said the debris suggested it was a Russian-made S-200 missile.
“An assessment from the pictures made public shows the base of its wings. It has Russian writing on it, so it suggests it is Russian made. Syria uses Russian-made missiles, so a not-so-safe assessment would be it was … an S-200 (missile),” Pentaras, a retired army general, told Sigma TV in Cyprus.
He added that jamming technology could have led to the missile error.
Residents told Cypriot media they saw a light in the sky, then three loud explosions were heard for miles around. Tashkent is a small village in the foothills of a mountain range rimming northern Cyprus. Authorities evacuated some homes after the incident.