Ghostburners, from collection to destruction

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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Lt. Anne-Claude Gouy
2Lt. Agustín López Marín

First published in
SFOR Informer#157, February 6, 2003

From Dec. 16, 2002 to Jan. 26, 2003, the Turkish Battalion Task Force participated in Harvest activities in their Area of Responsibility. This was done in coordination with the local police and the Army of the Federation (VF). The goal was to significantly reduce the number of dangerous weapons and explosive material. Also, to show possible Harvesting methods (the activity of the methods of collecting illegal weapons and explosives) likely to be implemented in the future. Turkish units focused its efforts in three villages of Canton 4 of the Federation: Zenica, Zavidovici and Vares.

Harvest Information operations
- Broadcasting 1,092
- House visits 775
- Posters hung 1,470
- Distributed handouts 4,736.

Zenica - Since 1998, the Harvest Project’s prime mission has been to remove from circulation illegal weapons, ammunitions, or explosive ordnance throughout BiH to be destructed. SFOR informed the local governments with a letter detailing the sorts of weapons that must be harvested.

Different phases
Capt. Unal Usta, Commander of the 2nd Coy, who was in charge of the Harvest activity in Zavidovici, stated: “We follow a special process with specific tasks to perform this operation. First, there is a Preparation and Information Operations phase where we form contacts and do the necessary co-ordination with local authorities and media. This is to inform the people about the Active Harvest activities. Soldiers involved with the task attend special training about harvest instructions and security measures.
The second phase includes an information campaign using Mass Media utilities to inform and persuade the population to hand over weapons, through local radio stations, newspapers and posters. The patrol teams went over their AOR distributing announcements by handbills, fixing posters and slogans.”
Usta added: “In the Battalion Harvest phase, every mechanised company has its own zone to cover with several EOD teams assigned. The 1st Coy was in the rural area of Vares, the 2nd Coy in Zavidovici and the 3rd Coy in Zenica. The centre of the village is always the gathering point. We inform local people about the results of the harvest activity with information notes, which are also distributed to the press. Obviously, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams (EOD) control and safely destroy all weapons and ammunition collected and stored in the Federation Army barracks in Zenica.”

Collecting actions in Zenica
After the information campaign provided by CIMIC teams in local mass media, everybody knew the Turkish operation in this village. Capt. Cevdet Yasar is the commander of the 3rd Coy and responsible for the area of Zenica. “We keep a patrol fixed at the main collection point inside the town, where the commander of the unit, EOD team and CIMIC unit are located. Two mobile teams are deployed around the village, walking around and visiting houses through the neighbourhood in the outskirts, with translators. They explain to the local people the danger of keeping the different types of weapons and ammo in their homes. In the meantime, the OC will direct the teams by making use of the intelligence collected."
An EOD team, led by Capt. Ozgur Kildirli, who remained in the main point, provided additional support. “Normally, local residents hand over small weapons, magazines or ammo of different calibres. Patrols without an EOD Team may only remove some small weapons, empty magazines and ammunition under 12.7mm, but not other dangerous devices, to avoid bobby-traps. All other cases require direct EOD support. For instance, it's possible that population gives us information about the place where weapons, explosives, etc. are stored; the patrol reports the exact position and the location. The EOD team inspects and examines the devices found; if they represent a risk, we make sure they are destroyed. We make sure that the rifle and hand grenades, mines, tank and artillery rounds, rocket launchers, plenty magazines, explosives, etc. are in good conditions to be transported by specific vehicles to the storage depot located on a Federation Army base in Zenica.”

New mind in a new country

Material collected
during the campaign

(Dec. 16, 2002 - Jan. 26, 2003)
- Rifles 7
- Light Machine Guns 47
- Pistols 4
- Shotguns 3
- Antitank Guns 12
- Rocket Launchers 9
- Land Mines Antitank 13
- Land Mines Antipersonnel 24
- Hand Grenades 509
- Rifle Grenades 45
- Mortar rounds 3
- Ammo over 76 mm 4
- Ammo 20 to 76 mm 104
- Ammo -20 mm 20,399
- Rocket Engines 10
- Magazines 158
- TNT (Grams) 2,000.

“I consider this activity an important part of our peacekeeping operation. As a result of our daily work in our Area of Responsibility, such as patrols, CIMIC tasks and engineering , local people trust us. They know the profitable consequences of these harvest activities and always show a friendly attitude. The population is not obliged to hand over the weapons, but the residents, the police and military authorities try to colaborate with us,” commented Usta. “We notice that we get less and less weapons. They are especially co-operative with the explosives, thanks to the awareness we previously provided. The local police comes gentlywith us , because residents prefer to see them: they want to work together for peace,” explained Capt. Zyia Kilig, EOD leader showing the last harvest (see box).

Demolition men
In order to maintain a safe and secure environment, and to be sure that these weapons won't be used again, it's necessary to destroy them. “We melt the weapons and the magazines in the Zenica factory. We will destroy the mines, rockets and ammunition in a live fire range based in Moscanica. But we will do it in stages, on several occasions, in order to not disturb the environment,” said Lt. Goksel Galic, liaison officer of the Turkish Batallion.
Monday, Jan 27th was the first day of the demolition. People in Zenica saw a large military convoy comprised with trucks, a field hospital and EOD vehicles crossing the town from the Federation Army Brigade HQ to the metal factory. “Co-operation with SFOR is excellent. They pay us 200KM per tons destroyed. We do it two or three times per year, and we never had any accidents with SFOR, whereas we had with local police,” said Mr. Memis Tahirbegovic, technical director of the factory. Burned in a oven by 1,600 degrees Celsius, the weapons disapear for ever. That is the way for SFOR Turkish soldiers to hunt war ghosts from the Bosnian minds.

Related link: SFOR at Work
Nations of SFOR: Turkey

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Photo: Courtesy of Turkish Battle Group

The first step of a Harvest operation is to inform local population.


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Photo: Courtesy of Turkish Battle Group

The smiles of the residents is the best reward for the weapons collectors.


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Photo: Sgt. Mike Buytas

The road is long to a total safe and secure environment. But the Turkish soldiers made a big step forward.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

The EOD appended his signature.


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Photo: Sgt. Mike Buytas

The EOD team controls each weapon in order to make sure there are no bullets inside.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Flames for a new future.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

A last journey from the storage to the destruction.


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Photo: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

Explosives, mines, rockets and ammunitions will be destroyed on a live fire range.


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Photo: Sgt. Mike Buytas

Another step: asking for the presence of weapon in each house.


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Photo: Sgt. Mike Buytas

Last instructions before patrolling downtown.