Balkans: August 13, 2003


The Bosnian Serb Army has decided to auction off 105 surplus tanks, over 40,000 infantry weapons, 98 artillery pieces and 68 antiaircraft defense weapons, as well as over 13 million rounds of ammunition. This package also includes over 1 million landmine components, which is surprising to see on the list - considering how much of a humanitarian problem landmines created after the Balkan Wars. 

The 6,600-strong Bosnian Serb army has a deadline to sell all mine and weapons surpluses by the end of 2003, otherwise the weapons will have to be destroyed. According to the Agreement on Subregional [Arms] Control (signed in Florence in 1996), the Bosnian Serb Army will keep 137 tanks, 113 armored combat vehicles, 500 artillery pieces (above 75 mm), 21 combat aircraft and seven ground-attack helicopters.

Over a dozen of Bosnian Serb defense and military officials were sacked in 2002 and 16 officials are to face a trial scheduled for this mid September, charged with breaching the UN arms embargo on Iraq. Their defense minister and chief of staff have argued that they were simply trying to offload some of the surplus weapons left over from Bosnia's 1992-95 war. After the smuggling was uncovered, the Bosnian Government promptly announced a total ban on all arms exports and imports in October 2002. 

The region is already infected with Al Qaeda sympathizers and awash with munitions they could use against civilization. SFOR announced on August 11th that a German-Italian Battle Group patrol found five M53 machine-guns, a M92 grenade-launcher, 65 rifles, 244 hand-grenades, 14.7 kilograms of plastic explosive and TNT in the area of Pale and Podgrad, in Sokolac region. An Italian raid had also uncovered an Al Qaeda training camp at the beginning of July.

Considering that Bosnian arms have shown up in Iraq and Burma (both under weapons embargoes by the US and the European Union), SFOR (the NATO-led Stabilization Force) will closely monitor this auction and certify that the buyer has a valid arms-trade license. Future dictators, get out those checkbooks. - Adam Geibel





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