Turkish troops collect and destroy
weapons during annual harvest
Photo: 1Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
Lt. Antonio Ruiz González and Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker
First published in
SFOR Informer#145, August 15, 2002
July 27-29, the Turkish Battalion Task Force (TU Bn TF)
carried out a weapons Harvest operation in Zavidovici. The
municipality's population of 50,000 people is approximately
80 percent Bosniac. The task was co-ordinated by the Civil-Military
Co-operation (CIMIC) team in Zavidovici where the TU Bn TF
manages an office.
Zavidovici - The office is a simple room located inside Zavidovici's
local authorities building. The facility may be small, but
the overall goal is huge. CIMIC teams are involved in several
projects such as reconstruction, displaced persons and humanitarian
aid. For the Harvest operation the task force kicked things
off with an information campaign in co-operation with the
local authorities. The purpose of the campaign is to persuade
the population to hand over weapons and the importance of
The mission of Harvest operation, which SFOR began in 1998,
is to remove from circulation illegal weapons, ammunitions
and explosive ordnance throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Mass media, to include local radio stations, newspapers and
information posters, are used for the campaign.
Soldiers involved with the task receive special training.
First Lieutenant Atakan Ak, patrol leader, explains the situation.
"We have to be kind with them (local people), the population
is not obliged to hand over the weapons. So, first of all,
we use kindness and then to know very well the different circumstances
we can face up to," said Ak.
He referred to the fact that troops were able to get ammunition
and weapons from the population, but no other devices, such
as mines or grenades. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
teams will be in charge of collecting those types of devices.
Several of the teams are assigned to certain patrols while
others will stay at the main collection point.
The collecting point
In the town there is a main collection point, this is where
the EOD team leader, CIMIC team leader and coy commander are
"Everybody knows why we are here, because CIMIC teams
have provided a good information campaign about our job so
that people will deliver munitions and weapons personally.
Or, they will give information regarding the whereabouts of
the weapons to the translators," said second coy commander
1st Lt. Atilla Yücel.
"A medical team is also included at this point as well
as an EOD vehicle where we keep the seized equipment,"
Moving door to door
Furthermore, the task force deployed patrols around the local
area visiting houses, knocking door to door attempting to
get the desired crop of weapons. The method used for the operation
included a couple of men and a translator going through the
neighbourhood speaking to people in their houses. An EOD team
who remained in the background provided additional support.
They explained to the local people the danger of keeping the
different types of munitions in their homes.
"We observe how they hand over to us some very dangerous
artefacts, such as hand grenades, mines and rifle grenades.
Those are even more dangerous than the weapons and ammunition
themselves," said Capt. Mesut Ekren, EOD team leader.
Though an element of fear is involved for the people turning
over arms, the reality is that they should not be afraid to
hand over weapons to the Turkish soldiers. The local population
is aware that the soldiers will not write their names on any
paper or list. On the contrary, every person who contributes
to the Harvest operation receives a certificate of appreciation
by the task force.
According to 1Lt. Isa Unlu, Public Information Officer, Turkish
Army "Our mission is peacekeeping, if people have something
to turn in to SFOR, it makes the country safer," he said.
Numbers show success
The harvest proved quiet a success as the number of weapons
turned in reflects. In total more than 96 rifles, 11 rocket
launchers, 28,028 rounds of ammunition and 707 magazines were
brought in as a result of the harvest. Along with the rifles
and ammunition there were also 949 hand grenades, 68,700 grams
of TNT, 62,550 grams of gunpowder, 192 fuses, as well as mortar
and artillery rounds. Ninety-four mines were also turned in,
one small step of progress for a country strewn with close
to a million mines.
Once the weapons were turned in to the task force they were
housed inside a special storage depot located on a Federation
Army base. Inside the anonymous looking building the hazards
of war were laid out ominously - waiting for their necessary
destruction. Soldiers heavily guarded the site, located in
Zenica, 24 hours a day until the weapons were officially destroyed.
For the weapons and magazines, destruction came in the form
of melting. For items such as mines, these were taken to Moscanica
Range and disposal area located in Zenica and detonated under
the careful scrutiny of the EOD team.
Destruction of the weapons
When the time arrived for the arsenal to be destroyed, the
items were loaded up and taken to the large steel factory
in Zenica. Once on site Turkish soldiers from the task force
began the arduous task of unloading the numerous boxes of
rifles and magazines from military trucks. Inside the factory,
the weapons would be melted in a large oven-type metal box
until they resembled nothing more than a large pile of harmless
Destroying illegal weapons requires a lot of hard work. By
developing good relations with the local population the task
force was able to make a difference by gathering and destroying
illegal weapons. Unauthorised weapons in the home can pose
a risk to all living there, especially children. For one Turkish
troop getting the weapons out of local homes and into the
hands of the proper authorities proved to be positive progress.
"It was great," said 1Lt. Kilik, Turkish Navy,
EOD, about the harvest, "we protect the people, especially
children, against weapons, mines and war. They (children)
think that the weapons are toys, they don't know how dangerous
they are. If you collect them they cannot play with them."
As members of the task force stood in the factory and watched
the weapons burn and crackle in the large oven, a sense of
satisfaction regarding a job well done permeated the air.
"These weapons can never kill another living thing again,"
said Kilik, "I am very happy about this."
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