MND-SE Harvest goes on

Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#139, May 23, 2002

The Spanish Battle Group (SPBG) seized 60 tonnes of ammunition, May 9-12. The ammo was found in a hidden basement in "Fabrika Duhana Mostar" and at UNIS factory. Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE) ordered SPBG to localise, seize and transport all the ammo that was found in the cellars of the Tobacco Factory.

Mostar - After contacting civilian authorities, local police and International Police Task Force (IPTF), the "Lepanto" Tactic Group and the "Taxdirt" Cavalry Squadron began "Cordoba Operation" by isolating a zone surrounding the recently discovered ammunition cache. After the zone was cleared and a safety area established, two Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams belonging to Engineer Regiment No. 12, and Sapper Unit X, conducted a thorough search of the area looking for booby traps and other hazards to ensure that there was no risk. At first it seemed as if there was nothing but after pulling down a false wall the teams found the first 216 boxes of ammo in a perfect state of conservation. From this room a door led to another depot where 2,294 new 120-mm mortal shell boxes were found. In total 5,020 grenades were seized making this discovery the largest ammo cache that has been confiscated in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) so far.
Real Risk
"According to our sources we know that up to 4,000 other 120-mm mortar shells still remain hidden in the Mostar region," said Maj. Gen. Maurice Amarger, Commanding General of MND-SE, during a press conference May 15. "It is totally irresponsible for the people to live with this permanent threat in their surroundings. I will say that so far we have worked in total co-operation with your national local authorities. The Federal Ministry of Defence is working at its level to collect necessary information that would lead us to the discovery of the caches as it was done for the Tobacco Factory. I know that there are people with enough common sense to act in the right direction. I will again strongly urge all people having knowledge of illegal weapons or ammunition hiding places to report to SFOR units. Information will be handled with complete confidentiality."
Amarger pointed to a map highlighting the consequences if the 4,000 shells in the Tobacco Factory were to accidentally explode. The explosion spot itself would be a crater 100 metres in diameter. The depth of the crater would be between 15 and 20 meters. The death-zone would extend from this spot and 500 metres. In this area any unprotected persons would be killed and the surrounding buildings seriously damaged by the effects of the blast.
The mass destruction zone would extend between 500 and 1,000 metres. Eighty percent of unprotected persons would be injured, and projectiles would damage 50 percent of the buildings. Lastly there is the high danger zone. This area extends between 1,000 metres and 2,000 metres. Fifty percent of unprotected persons would be injured and 50 percent of the buildings would be damaged. All windows would be broken.
The projectile range limit for the last zone reaches up to 4,000 meters. People in this area could be injured or killed by pieces of shrapnel or projectiles.
"It is really beyond common sense to have this type of ammunition in illegal dumps in Mostar," concluded Amarger. "The fact is that Mostar would suffer more than it suffered during the war. It is up to you all, to the citizens of this country to understand that they cannot live with this type of illegal dump."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain
Project Harvest

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Photos: Spanish PIO

After checking all ammunition seized it had to be carried to a temporary safety depot where it would wait for a few days, before being destroyed.


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The Spanish Cavalry squadron and the French Reconnaissance Company surrounded the Mostar tobacco factory, keeping the area free of strangers.


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The 5,020 mortar shells make this discovery the largest ammo cache that has been confiscated in BiH.


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Within a week, three sites containing a huge quantity of ammunition were discovered in the town of Mostar.