Image: Weapons removed from plane
AP
Thai police and soldiers remove crates of weapons from a cargo plane in Bangkok on Saturday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 12/12/2009 12:44:56 PM ET 2009-12-12T17:44:56

Five foreigners were detained and their foreign-registered aircraft impounded after it landed in the Thai capital Saturday with tons of war weaponry on board that originated in North Korea, Thai officials said.

Air Force spokesman Capt. Montol Suchookorn said the chartered cargo plane originated in North Korea's capital Pyongyang and requested to land at Bangkok's Don Muang airport to refuel.

Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn confirmed the seizure and the arrests, saying the weapons included "missiles, explosives and tubes." He told The Associated Press that the material was being transferred to a Thai military facility but provided no further details.

A Thai air force official involved in the inspection, who declined to be named, said Thai authorities had been asked by the United States to investigate the plane and its cargo.

"We were approached by the United States, seeking our cooperation to examine the suspected plane. It came from North Korea and was heading for somewhere in South Asia, probably Pakistan," the official told Reuters.

The Web site of the Manager Group said the aircraft, an Ilyushin 76 transport from Kazakhstan, was traveling from North Korea to Sri Lanka when it asked to land in Bangkok.

Officials, it said, found up to 45 tons of weapons on board and detained four citizens of Kazakhstan and one from Belarus.

The Thai TV station TPBS showed footage of the five men detained and trucks loaded with the weapons being driven out of the airport to a military base in the nearby province of Nakhon Sawan.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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