January 2004

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SFOR OPERATION HARVEST

BACKGROUND

Operation HARVEST began in March 1998. The aim of the operation is to gather illegal, unregistered weapons and ordnance, such as hand grenades, from private houses and caches. This is part of creating a safe and secure environment. HARVEST was started by SFOR, but the intent has always been to gradually transfer responsibility to the BiH authorities, particularly the local police.
Large numbers of weapons ammunition and other dangerous ordnance have been collected and disposed of since 1998. Nevertheless, it is assessed that there is still a considerable amount of military weapons, ammunition and ordnance in private possession. Many of the weapons, and particularly the hand grenades and explosives are in a dangerous condition - an accident waiting to happen!

2003 REPORT

During 2003, more than 11,000 handguns and rifles and 45,000 hand grenades were collected on HARVEST operations. These figures are an increase over last year, reflecting greater participation in the programme by SFOR and more importantly, by the local police and the citizens of BiH who recognize that these weapons are no longer required and present a danger to their communities. However, there are still too many unregistered weapons and hand grenades in towns, villages and farms throughout BiH that both endanger life and impede progress towards a secure and safe society that can take its place within the international community. Every weapon and round of ammunition collected and destroyed makes BiH a safer place for its children.

MELTDOWN

Once collected the HARVEST weapons such as rifles and machineguns are mainly destroyed at the steel factory in Zenica. The factory is the largest, by size, in Europe and believed to be the third largest in the world. Weapons are usually melted down once a month. Ammunition, mines and other explosive materials are destroyed through the cooperative efforts of SFOR and Bosnian Armed Forces soldiers at approved demolition sites.

WAY AHEAD

At present 80% of all HARVEST weapons and explosives collected are from SFOR operations, and 20% from the operations conducted by the local authorities. During 2004, SFOR will continue to support the local authorities in their operations but expects both Republica Srbska and the Federation to play a larger role in collecting the weapons from their communities. This is part of BiH developing as a State and taking responsibility for its own security. Removing illegal weapons from society demonstrates Bosnia and Herzegovina's commitment to a secure and safe society for the future.

Photos by SMSgt John Rohrer