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Top Cyprus Defense Leaders Resign Following Naval Blast

The two top defense leaders of Cyprus have resigned following a blast at a naval base in the south of the country.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 7/11/2011, 7:05 PM / Last Update: 7/11/2011, 8:28 PM

Ordnance from an Iranian ship that in 2009 tried to sneak the shipment into Gaza has resulted in the resignation of the two top defense officials in Cyprus, after the confiscated ammunition ignited while in storage.

Both Defense Minister Costas Papacostas and the army Chief of Staff Petros Tsalikidis stepped down after eight people died in the Monday morning explosion at a naval base in the southern part of the island nation.

Twelve people died and 62 others were injured in the blast, apparently caused by a flareup in a navy arsenal in storage.

The island nation's central power station shut down as a result of the explosion, causing outages around the country.

“The explosion occurred in material held since 2009 by the republic from an Iranian vessel that was sailing to Syria,” a spokesperson for the Cypriot government said in a statement.

Iran has repeatedly attempted to smuggle weapons and ammunition to terrorist groups dedicated to the destruction of Israel, including its proxy, the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terror group, and the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza.

President Demetris Christofias accepted the resignations of both defense officials in the wake of the blast. Cyprus, as Greece, has been especially instrumental this year in helping to rebuff the attempt of anarchists on Freedom Flotilla II to breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza.