Procurement: July 23, 2003

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Liberian LURD rebels have been relying heavily on mortars during the current offensive, yet their source remains a mystery. Liberia has been under a UN arms embargo. A UN investigative team confirmed that LURD (which operates on a shoestring budget anyway) had at least two British 81mm mortars back in April.

The Liberians had assorted numbers of 60mm M-31, 81mm M-29, 82mm M-37, 4.2" (107mm) M-30 and 120mm M-43 mortars before and during their civil war, along with three 75mm M-113 Pack Howitzers and eight 105mm M-101 Howitzers (civilian journalists and scared civilians aren't particularly reliable sources for determining whether incoming fire is actually from mortars or light artillery). 

While witnesses saw towed artillery being unloaded on Monrovia's docks from shipments of sanctions-busting Serbian arms packages in March 2003, where did the British mortars come from? The Guinea government apparently diverted 81mm mortar ammunition received from the United Arab Emirates to the LURD. Captured cartons of 81mm mortar ammunition inscribed UAE, Contract #DGP/3/81/231, Lot# 2-BT-9-83 were captured from LURD forces in Liberia, which the UAE confirmed was supplied to Guinea. It was shipped from Abu Dhabi to the port of Conakry on December 2, 1998, aboard the vessel "Sundus", through the Khalid Faraj company. 

It's conceivable that both sides have other mortars leftover from the civil war, particularly if one is skeptical about the effectiveness of UN arms destruction programs. Over 19,000 weapons (mostly small arms, but including field artillery, mortars, guns and anti-tank rocket launchers) along with over three million rounds of ammunition were supposedly destroyed in 1999 under UN supervision, at a cost of more than $ 250,000. - Adam Geibel

 


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