March 14, 2016 / 11:13 AM / in a year

Serbia finds U.S.-bound guided missiles on flight from Beirut

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian authorities found two U.S.-made guided missiles that arrived on a civil flight from Lebanon and were bound for the United States, a source at the prosecutor's office said on Monday.

The Lebanese army said the Hellfire missiles were training models, without any explosives in them, that it was returning to the manufacturer.

They were discovered in wooden crates by bomb-sniffing dogs at Belgrade airport on Saturday, the Serbian source said. They had arrived from Beirut on an Air Serbia flight and were due to be transferred to another plane to go to Portland, Oregon.

"Experts are determining whether the missiles were equipped with live or training warheads ... They were packed in proper transportation crates and supplied with paperwork," the source said.

The Lebanese army said in a statement carried by the National News Agency: "They belonged to the Lebanese army, which decided to send them back to the American company that manufactured them upon agreement with it, in accordance with legal and administrative procedures and after training with them had been completed.”

The AGM 114 Hellfire, produced by Lockheed Martin, is an air-to-surface missile which can be used against armored vehicles and tanks. In addition to a version with a high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire is also produced as a practice weapon.

Air Serbia said it was helping with the investigation and that security and safety were its main priorities.

An inert AGM 114 Hellfire missile that had arrived in Cuba by mistake in 2014 was retrieved last month by U.S. officials and Lockheed Martin representatives. Cuba said it had arrived by mistake on a commercial flight from Paris.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Additional reporting by John Davison in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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