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Troops Land in Sweden by Mistake

May 26, 2000

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ With their field packs, camouflage uniforms and weapons, the 116-member elite Italian military unit was ready for anything except, perhaps, map reading.

The heavily armed Alpini, as Italy’s elite alpine corps is called, hit the ground in neutral Sweden instead of in NATO-member Norway, where they were supposed to join the Cooperative Banners exercise.

It was not clear why their Airbus passenger plane mistakenly landed in southern Sweden’s Kristianstad instead of Kristiansand, which is in southern Norway, on Thursday.

The soldiers did not know they were in Sweden until immigration officials pointed out the navigational error, Swedish and Norwegian news reports said.

It was the first time immigration officers in Kristianstad turned back a NATO advance, the news media noted.

``This happens now and then,″ airport director Lennart Nilsson said about the mix-up between Kristianstad and Kristiansand. ``There are just a couple of letters _ but 400 kilometers (250 miles) _ separating the two cities.″

After about two hours in Sweden, the troops re-boarded their plane and headed for Kristiansand.

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