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.
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
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
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work