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The victims of the explosions in Cyprus honoured as heroes

12 July 2011 / 18:07:27  GRReporter
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Cyprus announced a three-day mourning period after yesterday's blast in the naval base to Limassol, which killed 12 people and injured other 62, the condition of two of them being rather serious.

The media in Cyprus defined the twelve members of the National Guard and the Fire Service who sacrificed their lives during the accident at the Evangelos Florakis naval base as heroes. According to the message of the Cypriot Ministry of Defence and the headquarters of the police, all the victims were aged between 25 and 40 years.

Among the victims is the commander of the base Captain Andreas Ioannidis. Hours after the tragic event, it became clear that the man who laid the foundation of the Cyprus Navy remained at his post to the end. When the first fire broke out shortly after 4:00 am, the captain knew what could happen and freed the sailors and the staff, observing the international safety rules. Only he, two sailors and the firefighters remained at the base. The first container exploded only an hour later.

In tragic irony, the two sailors who remained with the commander were the twin brothers Miltiadis and Hristakis Christoforou. Born and raised in London, they returned homeland for their military service. Among the victims are six firefighters who were on duty during the fatal morning, the deputy commander, the administrative officer and the petty officer of the naval base.

The 12 victims were posthumously awarded a medal for heroism. With candles in their hands, thousands of Cypriots gathered outside the presidential building in Nicosia to express their grief for the victims of the blast, but also their anger.
 
The today's edition of the Cypriot newspaper Politis published an article describing the efforts of the commander of the base and the Cyprus Navy Andreas Ioannidis to alert the General Staff on the dangers the storage of the explosive materials in the base could cause.

They became apparent about three weeks ago. According to sailors serving in the base, the containers storing the 98 boxes of ammunition started to swell and damage. At a time, the military headquarters decided to investigate the veracity of the allegations of the commander Andreas Ioannidis. For this purpose, they held a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the police, the fire and other services last Wednesday.

After the inspection on site during which the appointed commission made sure that the containers were actually damaged its members assured the army leadership that there was no cause for concern and the storage conditions were safe. In addition to the security measures, the commission ordered a regular cooling of the containers to eliminate the risk of further swelling. Thus, after the order the boxes of gunpowder had to be moistened with water at frequent intervals. According to the sources of the newspaper, the proposal of the heads of the Cyprus Navy to move the containers to a warehouse and to take additional security measures was rejected to avoid finance charges.

The son of the dead commander Nicolas Ioannidis also confirmed the information about the poor condition of the containers. He said that a small explosion was registered last week that formed a hole in the containers. He added that the containers swelled much last Sunday.

The story with the explosive materials that took the lives of the 12 victims began in January 2009 when the American warship of Task Force 151 received a signal from Washington to monitor the maneuvers of the Russian cargo ship Monchegorsk, sailing with the Cypriot flag. The reason for this were the suspicions that the ship was carrying military arsenal from Iran with possible recipients the Palestinian military group Hamas in Gaza, the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon or Syria, or the three groups together. The ship crossed the Suez Canal when Egyptian ships joined the persecution. Monchegorsk passed along the Gaza Strip and headed north.

On January 19, 2009, the Russian captain of the cargo ship allowed the U.S. Marines to get on and check it out as stipulated in UN resolutions. They found the containers of explosives that put the beginning of the incredible story that led to the deadly blast in the naval base Evangelos Florakis near Limassol.

The ship's papers made it clear that the Iranian state shipping company IRISL rented the ship to transport cargo from the port of Badar Abba in Iran to the Syrian port of Tartus. According to the secret telegram 09state5968 the US Foreign Ministry sent to the embassy in Nicosia, powerful explosive were found in the cargo ship with a diameter of 120, 122 and 160 mm with a final destination Syria. More ammunition of 7.62 mm in diameter, pressed gunpowder, silver bullets in the size of a dollar, simple fillings and fillings with magnesium were also found during the inspection.

According to the telegram, when asked whether it is willing to intervene Nicosia replied that it feared the reaction of Damascus, as happened with another vessel carrying radars from North Korea to Syria. Minutes later, the head of the Diplomatic Office of the Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias informed the US ambassador that the authorities have called the captain of the ship to berth at the port of Limassol, without receiving any response. According to the telegram, Leonidas Pantelidis said that they did what they could.

According to the article in the Phileleftheros newspaper, however, the U.S. Office of Homeland Security NSA informed the Embassy that the ship had not received or sent messages in the transmitter soon. Therefore, someone was lying. At the same time, the U.S. Navy informed that the ship's speed is such that it would come to the Syrian port in the evening.

Tags: NewsCyprusLimassolNaval baseBlastGunpowderVictimsShipDiplomatic marathonAmercian EmbassySyriaIranHamasHezbollah
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