US al-Qaeda ‘prisoners' jet continues to use Shannon

28 November 2004
By Paul T Colgan

The US jet used to abduct and transport al-Qaeda suspects has landed in Shannon airport three times this year, The Sunday Business Post has learned.

This contradicts earlier claims by the Minister for Transport that it had not landed in Ireland since early 2003.

Martin Cullen told the Dail last month that the jet, call sign N379P, had landed in Ireland 13 times since 2001, but had not landed here since early last year.

In fact, the plane, now using a different call sign, has landed here under cover of darkness on at least three occasions this year. It stopped off in Shannon on January 20 and March 6 en route from Dulles,Washington DC. The other date is unknown.

The Gulfstream jet, on permanent contract to the US Department of Defense, is known to have been involved in the abduction of suspects from Europe and the Middle East.

The jet's call sign has now been changed from N379P to N8068V. It is registered to the private US airline company Premier Executive Transport Services and has landing rights at US military bases, including Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray in Cuba.

Following a query from this newspaper, Cullen said a jet with the call sign N8068V had made three “technical stops'‘ in Shannon this year.

It is unclear when the department became aware of the change to the plane's callsign.

The minister was not asked to confirm the identity of the plane, or if it was being used to transport suspects, but stated: “On no occasion did any passengers join or leave the flight at Shannon.”

He said the US government had given assurances it had not used Irish airports for the transit of “prisoners'‘, and that it would seek the Irish government's permission, should it wish to do so in future.

The Department of Foreign Affairs would not comment on whether the government would grant such permission. Independent TD Finian McGrath said the policy of allowing the jet to land here was “seriously damaging'‘ Irish foreign policy.

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