SFOR Sisyphus at the summit again

Lt. Col. Günter Pusch
First published in
SFOR Informer#153, December 5, 2002

Gaining control of weapons, ammunition and explosive ordnance items is one of the top priorities for SFOR forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whenever SFOR observations and intelligence, as well as information from the local population, provide reliable confirmation that weapons are hidden in a certain location then a collection mission must be made in order to seize these dangerous items.

Foca - In the middle of November, it was time to carry out searches again in the Foca area. In and around six buildings security and stability were to be restored. Under the command of deputy mission commander Lt. Col. Jürgen Uchtmann, and augmented by specialised personnel of the mission support forces, the German deployment forces set to work.
Physical attack
To everybody's surprise the owners did not go for the SFOR soldiers, but the Bosnian-Serb policeman who accompanied the action. They made it perfectly clear that he was a traitor, they spat at him and it was only the intervention of the German soldiers that prevented a physical attack. After all, he was only doing his duty. His superior had detailed him to escort the operation which had been duly registered, and with an International Police Task Force officer from the Netherlands also present.
What followed was the usual verbal tug-of-war between the house owners and the SFOR troops: "We don't have any weapons or ammunition", said the head of the household. His wife added: "You are making my floor all dirty. Who is going to clean up that mess?" It should be mentioned that the state of all the rooms had been photographed for later reference prior to the search in order to be able to counter any accusations that might be levelled later.
Lt. Col. Uchtmann accepted the challenge and replied: "If we do not find any weapons or ammunition, my soldiers will clean up the place when we leave. If, however, you do not report or hand over any weapons and we find them, then you'll have to do the cleaning yourselves."
Sisyphus a success
Five minutes later the first two rifles were seized. "You know, we have just bought ourselves a new Volkswagen Golf Mk III which we must protect against theft," the head of the household claimed. "Are you going to shoot someone because of a stolen car?" An awkward silence followed. But that was obviously not the real reason, because nothing escaped the German highly trained specialists. 200 grams of explosives plus detonators inside the washing machine or hand grenades in the beehive - everything was brought to light. A total of 23 rifles, two machine guns, three pistols, 17 hand grenades, four anti-personnel mines, one anti-tank mine and 200 grams of explosives plus detonators and approx. 10,000 rounds of ammunition were found - in just one house. They were certainly not all needed to protect a car against theft. Note the words of the owner, who also runs a restaurant, when the soldiers were ready to leave: "Please, don't bear a grudge and do come again!" What a glimpse behind the bar could possibly reveal would surely set everyone thinking.
The result of this operation is worth mentioning: almost 60 firearms, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, 88 hand grenades, twelve mines and almost eleven kilograms of explosives were seized from only six properties.
With this success, Sisyphus' stone was rolled to the summit again, but according to Greek mythology he had to do it over and over again. How long will SFOR have to continue with this task?

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Courtesy of German MP Coy

Operation 'Surprise' was conducted by the German BG near Foca.

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Searching the whole kitchen.

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Some weapons and ammunition found in one single building.

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Results of a search in another house: MTR shells, antitank weapons and ammunition.