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June 01, 2006

Military funeral for Kostas Iliakis in Hania

Claire and I both started back at work yesterday, which meant a thirty minute trek into town at 7:40am. Once Claire had got to the bus station I pottered around town until one of the internet cafes, Vrannos, was open.

As I'd been wandering around I noticed that police were cordoning off large areas of central Hania. Just before 11am the noise from the cathedral around the corner from Vrannos was deafening - with continued pealing of the bells followed by chanting over the loudspeakers. I decided to take a break from work to go and investigate.

Newsmanatthefuneral There was a massive ceremony going on, with a large number of Greek armed forces and police present, a brass band, and numerous wreaths. I realised it was important because I saw there were TV crews not only from the local stations, but also from the national networks Alter and Alpha.

It was only as I walked around the harbour and saw a couple of guys wearing air force uniforms (judging by the wings on their lapels) that I twigged - it was the funeral for the Greek F-16 pilot who was killed last week in a skirmish with the Turkish air force.

Details of the incident are still subject to dispute. The Greek miltary claims it was intercepting Turkish fighters that were in Greek airspace on a mission to photograph missile positions on Crete. Meanwhile the Turkish military claim their planes were simply carrying out manoeuvres in international airspace. Whatever the rights or worngs of the situation, the Turkish pilot was able to eject, and after refusing help from Greek air/sea rescue teams, was picked up by the Turks. The Greek pilot is still missing, presumed dead.

Airforcefuneral The pilot, Kostas Iliakis, was based in Souda, just down the road from us, and the funeral attracted the Greek president, senior government figures, and senior members of the opposition parties. Given the security scare earlier in the week with the attack on Giorgos Voulgarakis, it was no wonder police had cordoned off much of central Hania.

Iliakis was mourned with full military honours. Later on, once I was settled into Notos to continue my work, Hania reverberated to the sound of a volley of ceremonial gunfire, and then the harbour was overflown four times by a tight formation of three F-16s from the Greek airforce.

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R.I.P Captain we will always remember you as a hero

o Kwstantinos Iliakis htan kai tha einai enas hrwas pou thusiasthke gia thn patrida...den htan upoxrewmenos na to kanei..kai auto einai tragikh apodeiksh tou poso polu agapouse to epaggelma tou.to oneiro tou apo mikro paidi htan na ginei pilotos...to oneiro tou ton skwtwse....einai loipon enas gennaios hrwas pou tha apotelei protupo gia olous kai gia panta!

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