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Han Pijesak illegal weapons cache

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#126, November 14, 2001

On Oct. 29 an illegal weapons cache was uncovered near Han Pijesak, a settlement 50 kilometres Northeast of Sarajevo. Senior Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) officers denied knowledge of the site.

Han Pijesak - The illegal weapons cache was discovered in Multinational Division North's (MND-N) area of responsibility, within Republika Srpska. The village used to be one of the headquarters used by Bosnian Serb Army Commander Gen. Ratko Mladic.
The site
"Infantry secured the general area and were accompanied by Explosive Ordnance Teams (EOD). Our soldiers then conducted recces to physically locate the cache," explained American Maj. Michael Reidy of the 2-29 Engineers. Reidy noted that the site was "back in a forest, it had a roof of logs with a covering of soil, then some branches and vegetation. The cache itself was built of wood and was the size of several foot lockers."
The site proved to be quite a haul with the following items discovered: six shoulder fired surface to air missiles; two rocket propelled grenade launchers; 14 rocket propelled grenades; three mortars; four mortar rounds; 31 land mines; 55 hand held grenades; three mine clearing charges; two anti-tank rocket launchers; one heavy machine gun; and 4,239 rounds of small arms ammunition. All the weapons were removed to another location after being identified by EOD.
Violation
SFOR manages and controls authorised weapon sites where the arms of the Armed Forces in Bosnia Herzegovina are held and closely monitored. This is in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) Annex 1A, which sets out specific rules concerning the governing of weapons. Unauthorised weapon sites are therefore illegal as they violate specific tenants within the GFAP. The presence of such uncontrolled weapons also goes against the general SFOR mission laid down in the GFAP, namely, to create and maintain a safe and secure environment in which other international organisations can carry out their tasks.
The seriousness of the find was indicated by the presence of the Commander SFOR (COMSFOR) Lt. Gen. Sylvester. According to an Oct. 30 press release from MND-N he visited the site on Monday, Oct. 29, bringing with him the VRS Commander Gen. Novica Simic. Sylvester expressed SFOR's concerns over the cache, to which Simic denied knowing of the site's existence. However, he pledged to COMSFOR that a full investigation would be conducted to determine if any VRS forces had knowledge or involvement in this illegal storage area. Earlier in the day VRS 5th Corps Commander Gen. Svetozar Andric had also been brought to the area. Andric said that he had no knowledge of this particular site, but pledged that he would fully co-operate with SFOR in removing and properly disposing of the weapons.
It was reported in an Oct. 30 SFOR press release that both VRS generals speculated that because the area had been so heavily contested during the war, that this cache site may have been constructed prior to the signing of the GFAP. It could therefore have belonged to either side. COMSFOR acknowledged this possibility, but also expressed concern over the fact that it appears that the site had been tampered with since the end of the war.
Continuing Work
"We're happy that this is a combined co-operation. The infantry provide security, the engineers and EOD provide technical expertise, logistics have helped too, and of course, intelligence provided information for the location of the cache. It is gratifying that all the pieces came together," remarked Reidy. This co-operation continues: "We're trying to locate additional caches at the moment, which involves dismounted patrols and precautions against mines with EOD teams on standby."

Related link: SFOR at Work