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Cordon and search operation

By Cpl. Rob Knight
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001

Srbac - Srbac in the RS is a sleepy little town situated on the southern bank of the Sava River. Apart from some haphazard construction work going on in the town, nothing much disturbs people at the weekends. Crows nesting in the tall poplar trees in the town square caw noisily in the still, warm air on what would appear to be a typical day in early spring.
On the southern outskirts of the town, on a hill not far from the town's water reservoir, the pace of life is somewhat different. Here, troops from the UKBG, part of the SFOR presence in the Republika Srpska are conducting a cordon and search operation in response to an anonymous tip-off.
In the scrubby woodland just a few hundred metres from the nearest houses, lies another forgotten relic of the war: an underground ammunition bunker containing as much as five tons of explosives and ammunition.
At first light, following a period of observation by reconnaissance elements of C Squadron, The Queen's Dragoon Guards, sappers from the Royal Engineer EOD detachment based at Mrkonjic Grad Bus Depot, began the dangerous and laborious task of clearing and emptying the bunker.
Sgt. Jim Duckworth, RE EOD, led this phase of the operation.
"We found evidence that the bunker had been opened recently: scattered packaging around the entrance and some mine detonators on the floor of the bunker just inside the doorway. These detonators contain enough explosive power to blow a man's foot off, so my men and I are being very cautious at the moment."
The clearing of the entrance to the bunker progressed well into the afternoon, but after that, work proceeded more quickly. Initial estimates that the bunker contained up to five tons were confirmed as the day wore on.
Items removed included grenades, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, anti-tank mines of various types and a large assortment of anti-personnel mines. All of the ordnance removed was in its original packaging and immaculately preserved.
The task of cataloguing the various types of ordnance and making it safe to be moved to another location fell to Cpl. Craig Appleby RE EOD.
"What we're finding is all kinds of grenades and mines, mostly consisting of the older types found in the inventories of the Armed Forces in BiH." Some of the munitions found here are inherently dangerous, even to the user.
"The BRK M-79 is a hand-thrown anti-vehicle grenade that even the locals didn't like using as they had a habit of exploding prematurely, injuring or killing the man doing the throwing." Several cases of these were found at Srbac.
Despite evidence that the bunker may have been opened and used during the recent war (a large minefield is located less than one km from the site), speculation grows that this may have been one of a series of pre-positioned arms caches along the Sava River, placed there by the former Yugoslav Army (VJ) as part of a soviet defence programme. Paperwork found inside the bunker indicated that some of the munitions found might have been placed there as long ago as the 1950's. In that event, we can expect many more discoveries of this kind.

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