Illegal ammunitions' cache discovered
Lt. Pedro Fernández
First published in
SFOR Informer#138, May 9, 2002
The French Battle Group (FRBG) seized 50 tonnes of ammunition,
April 24. The ammunition was found in an underground cellar
of an industrial premises in the area of Vrapcici, near Mostar.
Numerous rumours had circulated about the presence of ammo
in a former textile factory, but a telephone call provided
MND-SE with the right information.
Vrapcici - Harvest operations are a constant SFOR concern.
On this occasion the FRBG seized one of the biggest caches
of illegal shells in the Force's history.
"Djuro Salaj" is a big factory with a lot of land
surrounded by a metal fence and under surveillance. The remains
spread on the floor cover the entire industrial complex, showing
what previously was an important industrial activity. The
depot was in a closed basement in the last and hidden building.
The arms cache consisted of about five thousand 120-mm mortar
shells, 850 kilos of complementary charges and 6,096 different
kinds of fuses. Six shipping containers were needed to load
it all. All the ammunition was in a perfect state. These munitions
were produced in 1995 and 1996. The packages were piled up
perfectly and well preserved and the wooden ammunition boxes
seemed clear and clean as if they had just been made.
"Some local people called the MND-SE Headquarters, providing
information about the possibility of an illegal depot in the
Djuro Salaj," said French Capt. Christophe
Monnier, engineer officer of the FRBG. "An Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team belonging to the FRBG was then
sent there, in order to check the news. The EOD reported that
not only was the information true but also that there was
a large quantity of ammo as well."
The EOD team is made up of two technicians specialised in
explosives, one assistant and one medic.
"We entered the basement through a hole in the wall instead
of using the stairs," explained WO Dominique Remy, EOD
team leader. "The first thing we saw were the boxes of
complementary charges. After the initial reconnaissance we
cleared enough space for the whole team to work together inside
Remy further described the exeprience: The place was
in complete darkness. We had to work using the light from
our head and hung torches. The reconnaissance was very slow
and methodical. In a place like this, you never know if you
will find any kind of booby trap, which forces you to be extremely
careful. Due to the fact that more than three-quarters of
the place was covered by boxes, we had to move in a kind of
labyrinth. It was a very long day working in the dark to check
the place, in order to make sure there weren't mines or booby
The destruction of the ammunition began April 30, in the presence
of the local press. Even though it was only a small proportion
to be destroyed, for demonstration purposes, it made a big
The destruction of the remaining ammunitions will finish May
11, in Kalinovik fire range. SFOR and Ministry of Interior
of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (Canton 7) are carrying out
the investigation in order to determine the origin and the
purpose of this illegal depot. As stated by French Lt. Col.
Nicolas Rambaud, MND-SE spokesperson: "I saw that many
articles (in the local press) have been published about this,
but that information is not official. It is local authorities
who are responsible for that investigation, not SFOR. However,
if we are asked to assist, we are ready to do so and provide
all evidence regarding the case that is in our possession."
Nations of SFOR: France
SFOR at Work