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Turkish Airlines denies carrying weapons to Nigeria

Source: Reuters - Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:51 GMT
Author: Reuters
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ISTANBUL, March 19 (Reuters) - Turkish Airlines on Wednesday denied carrying weapons and military equipment to Nigeria after a Twitter account behind a string of leaks in a Turkish corruption scandal released a voice recording suggesting it had done so.

The Twitter posting late on Tuesday was the latest blow to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a government graft scandal which has grown into one of the biggest challenges of his 11 years in office, and which he has cast as a plot by his political enemies to unseat him.

The recording, whose authenticity Reuters was unable to verify, is purportedly of a conversation between a senior Turkish Airlines employee and one of Erdogan's advisers.

Shares in Turkish Airlines, which is 49-percent state-owned, were down 2.34 percent to 6.25 lira, underperforming the Istanbul share index, which was up 0.54 percent.

Erdogan and officials in his office have described previous recordings leaked on social media as a "montage" calculated to undermine him. His office has said it will not comment further.

"Lots of material is on its way to Nigeria right now. Is it going to kill Muslims or Christians? I am sinning right now, you should know," the voice purportedly of the Turkish Airlines official says.

The voice supposedly of Erdogan's adviser says he will look into it.

The airline said in an e-mailed statement that it only carried weapons and military equipment in line with international law and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.

"No weapons were carried to the country mentioned in reports, from Turkey or from another country," it said.

The purported leaks have piled pressure on Erdogan as he campaigns around the country for local elections on March 30.

He accuses U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally with influence in police and judiciary whose followers say they number in the millions, of contriving the scandal to unseat him.

Gulen and his followers have denied orchestrating the corruption investigation or conspiring against the government (Reporting by Seda Sezer; Editing by Nick Tattersall/Jeremy Gaunt)

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