Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 09:36 UK

Nigeria 'wrong' to seize weapons


The owners of a Ukrainian aircraft seized in northern Nigeria with a cargo of weapons say the authorities there have no reason to hold it.

Nigerian officials say they found 18 crates of weapons on board the plane bound for Equatorial Guinea.

The Ukrainian company told Russian news agency Itar-Tass the aeroplane landed in Kano city to refuel and had all the correct permits and documents.

It was initially reported that the aircraft had made an emergency landing.

The plane was flying from Croatia and Ukrainian arms export agency Ukrspetseksport said the cargo did not belong to Ukraine.

"There were all [the] permits for this flight, including from the Nigerian authorities. There were no violations regarding either the plane or the cargo, or the documents," Meridian Director-General Mykola Minyaylo was quoted as saying.

"The plane was flying from Zagreb to Equatorial Guinea and landed in Nigeria to refuel."

The seven-member crew had had their passports seized but were in good physical condition, he said.

The BBC's Mustafa Mohamed in Kano says the aircraft has been placed under guard, and security forces are continuing their investigations.

Attack on palace

Earlier this year, the authorities in Equatorial Guinea arrested a number of people in connection with an attack on the presidential palace in the capital, Malabo.

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema
There was an attack on Equatorial Guinea President Nguema this year

A the time of the incident, in February, state radio in Equatorial Guinea said that those detained had been operating with members of a militant group based in Nigeria's Niger Delta region.

It said some of those who attacked the palace had been killed or wounded.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) denied involvement.

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema later dismissed several government ministers.

The president has been in power in the oil-rich former Spanish colony since seizing power in a coup in 1979.

His government has long been accused of human rights abuses and of suppressing political opposition.

Last year, a former British army officer, Simon Mann, was sentenced to 34 years in jail for plotting to overthrow him in 2004.

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