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MILITARY

Spanish jet accidentally fires missile above Estonia

Spain's defence ministry said Tuesday it has opened an investigation after one of its Eurofighter jets accidentally fired a missile in the skies over Estonia during a routine training mission.

Spanish jet accidentally fires missile above Estonia
Spain's Eurofighters as seen in a fly by during October 12th parade in Madrid. Photo: AFP

“A Spanish Eurofighter based in Lithuania accidentally fired a missile without causing any harm,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the incident happened Tuesday afternoon “in an area of southwest Estonia 
authorised for this type of exercise”.

“The air-to-air missile has not hit any aircraft. The defence ministry has opened an investigation to clarify the exact cause of the incident,” it added.   

Two Spanish Eurofighter jets, and two French Mirage 2000 jets, were taking part in the training exercise in the Baltic country, the ministry said.

After the incident the jets returned an air base in Siauliai in northern Lithuania where they are based.   

The missile carried up to 10 kilos (22 pounds) of explosives and is designed to self-destruct in the event of such accidents, but it may have landed on the ground, according to Spanish media reports.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said on Facebook “thank God” there were “no human casualties” due to this “startling incident”, which he called “extremely regrettable”.

“I am sure that the Estonian defence forces will, in cooperation with our allies, identify all the circumstances of the case and make every effort to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” he added.

MILITARY

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp ‘kill squad’

Spanish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into messages posted in a WhatsApp group of retired military officers that denounced Spain's left-wing government and discussed shooting political adversaries.

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp 'kill squad'
Photo: JOSEPH EID / AFP

The group was made up of high-ranking retired members of the air force with some of the messages leaked in December to the Infolibre news website, sparking public outrage.

The messages focused on the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialists rule alongside the hard-left Podemos in Spain’s first coalition government since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

“I don’t want these scoundrels to lose the elections. No. I want them and all of their offspring to die,” wrote one.

“For them to die, they must be shot and 26 million bullets are needed,” wrote another, referring to the number of people who cast their ballots in favour.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in mid-December after finding the statements were “totally contrary to the constitutional order with veiled references to a military coup”.

But they dropped the probe after concluding the content of the chat did not constitute a hate crime by virtue of the fact it was a private communication.

“Its members ‘freely’ expressed their opinions to the others ‘being confident they were among friends’ without the desire to share the views elsewhere,” the Madrid prosecutors office said.

The remarks constituted “harsh” criticism that fell “within the framework of freedom of expression and opinion,” it said.

The decision is likely to inflame protests that erupted in mid-February over the jailing of a Spanish rapper for tweets found to be glorifying terrorism, a case that has raised concerns over freedom of speech in Spain.

According to Infolibre, some of the chat group also signed a letter by more than 70 former officers blaming the Sanchez government for the “breakdown of national unity” that was sent to Spain’s King Felipe VI in November.

Such remarks echo criticism voiced by Spain’s rightwing and far-right opposition that has denounced the government for courting separatist parties in order to push legislation through parliament where it only holds a minority.

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