Cubans knew targets were Cessnas

PHIL DAVISON

Miami

Cuban-Americans plan to fly and sail on Saturday to the area where Cuban MiG fighters shot down two Miami-based light aircraft last weekend, apparently killing all four crew. The exiles say they will toss flowers into the Straits of Florida, outside Cuba's territorial waters, and hold a memorial service while two planes of the Brothers to the Rescue group fly overhead.

US officials and Cuban exile moderates, who believe the downed planes were provoking Fidel Castro's government by approaching Cuba, fear the plan could lead to further incidents. After it was announced, Cuban state TV broadcast a statement by Fidel Castro's brother Raul, head of the armed forces, saying Cuba would dedicate "maximum attention to defence".

In the same broadcast, a Cuban soldier said: "We reaffirm our willingness to keep on defending our skies, our land and our coasts."

Jose Basulto, leader of Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami-based group of volunteer pilots who overfly the Straits in the hope of saving Cuban boat people, said he would fly one of the planes on Saturday. Mr Basulto was flying a third Cessna last Saturday but managed to escape as two MiG fighters destroyed the two other planes with missiles.

Mr Basulto speculated yesterday that an apparent Cuban double agent who fled from Miami to Havana just before the shooting incident may have been part of an elaborate plot by Mr Castro that went wrong. "Had they shot me down, with no witnesses, they may have wheeled out Juan Pablo Roque [the apparent agent], billed him as a survivor and had him say that we were on some other kind of mission," Mr Basulto said.

Meanwhile, tapes of the communications between the two Cuban pilots and their ground controller, intercepted by US intelligence, showed they knew they were shooting down Cessnas. The pilots were heard screaming with excitement as they fired, after several minutes of confusion as ground control guided them to their targets. The confusion worried US officials, who noted that dozens of American commercial jetliners overfly Cuba daily.

The tapes also suggested the pilots came close to firing missiles at a Florida-based cruise liner, apparently the Royal Caribbean line's Majesty of the Seas with more than 3,000 people on board, by mistake.

Following are excerpts from the tapes.

Ground control: You have a target 10 degrees to your left.

MiG-23: Negative, it is a large vessel that I have here.

Ground control: You have the target at 30, I have it in front of you.

MiG-23: Right, what I have is a vessel.

MiG-29: OK, the target is in sight ... It is a Cessna 337 ... First launch. We took out his balls (screaming).

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project