How are Ukrainian weapons ending up in the hands of ISIS?

Antiaircraft missileSignificant amounts of Ukrainian-manufactured weapons are ending up in the hands of the Islamic State, prompting accusations that Kiev may be arming the militant group in an effort to impair its regional foe Russia. Persisting rumors that Ukraine may be secretly arming the Islamic State —also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS— resurfaced last week, when authorities in Kuwait arrested six men suspected of working for the militant group. Among them was Osama Mohammed Saeed Khaiyat, a Syrian citizen of Lebanese background, who is believed to have traveled to Europe and the Middle East in search of weapons to be purchased by the Islamic State. Khaiyat, 45, allegedly told his captors that he has made several trips to Ukraine in the past, where he has purchased weapons and ammunition on behalf of the group. The weapons are purchased with cash, said Khaiyat, and are then delivered to Islamic State fighters in Syria through smuggling routes in the Black Sea and in Turkey.

As can be expected, Khaiyat’s revelations rekindled rumors that the government of Ukraine may be secretly funding the Islamic State, or may be turning a blind eye to secret dealings between weapons merchants and Islamic State arms procurers. The theory goes that Kiev is hoping that a well-armed Islamic State may be able to bog down Russian armed forces in Syria and thus distract Moscow from its military operations in eastern Ukraine. However, there is no proof that Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom weapons conglomerate, which oversees the country’s military–industrial complex, is the source of the weapons. It is worth noting that millions of weapons have been stolen from Ukrainian government depots since the start of the war in Donbass, and that weapons-smuggling has increased dramatically as a result. Moreover, Khaiyat told his Kuwaiti captors that FN-6 portable antiaircraft surface-to-air missiles were among the weapons he bought in Ukraine. The FN-6 is a Chinese-manufactured weapon, which has never been sold to the Ukrainian military. On the other hand, the Ukrainians could have purchased that weapon from the Chinese through a front-company, before supplying it to the black market.

Speaking to Russian news agency TASS, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military said on Friday that authorities in the former Soviet republic had no idea how the weapons were reaching the Islamic State. Vladislav Seleznyov, who speaks on behalf of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ General Staff, told TASS that Kiev had “not produced or purchased Chinese-designed antiaircraft missile systems”, nor had it “provided transit for their transportation” to Syria. He added that reporters “should turn to law enforcement agencies on this issue”, as the Ukrainian military had “nothing to report on this topic”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 November 2015 | Permalink

Nuclear black market thriving in Eastern Europe despite efforts to stop it

MoldovaThe United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting authorities in some of Europe’s poorest states in their efforts to stop criminals with Russian connections from selling radioactive material to foreign terrorist organizations. The Associated Press said earlier this month that joint efforts by the FBI and Eastern European governments have frustrated at least four attempts to sell stolen radioactive material in the black market since 2010.

In one case, which involved a criminal gang in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, the smugglers were trying to sell radioactive material to representatives of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Associated Press said it spoke to law enforcement and judicial authorities in Moldova, who have set up a small team of detectives to investigate the nuclear black market. The Moldovans told the Associated Press that they were working with the FBI, and even shared some of their investigative case files with the news agency.

In another recent case, which was cracked by authorities in February of this year, a smuggler in Moldova tried to sell a significant quantity of cesium, a radioactive metal typically extracted from the waste produced by nuclear reactors. According to the Moldovans, the quantity of the fission product was “enough to contaminate several city blocks”. Additionally, the Moldovan investigators told the Associated Press that the smuggler was specifically seeking a buyer from the Islamic State.

In yet another case, a joint US-Moldovan investigation targeted Alexandr Agheenco, a mysterious Russian-born smuggler, who in the spring of 2011 said he had access to bomb-grade uranium. According to Moldovan investigators, a middleman working for Agheenco told a prospective buyer from Sudan that he would be willing to sell an unspecified quantity of uranium, as well as “blueprints for a dirty bomb”. Although the sale was prevented by the US-Moldovan investigators, Agheenco managed to escape.

According to the Moldovans, the worsening relations between Washington and Moscow are making it more difficult for investigators from the two countries to share intelligence on nuclear smuggling rings. As a result, smugglers are finding it easier to operate across Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union. Many leading black-market operatives manage to avoid capture and prosecution, while even those arrested are usually able to evade lengthy convictions, which means that they quickly return to nuclear smuggling, reports the Associated Press.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 October 2015 | Permalink | News tip: J.B.

Is Texas Army base home to secret CIA weapons facility?

Observers of the Central Intelligence Agency know that the Agency maintains two widely acknowledged facilities inside the United States —both in the state of Virginia. One is its headquarters in Langley. The other is inside the Armed Forces Experimental Training Activity, known more commonly as Camp Peary, located near Williamsburg, where officers of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service are allegedly trained. However, for many decades researchers have speculated that the Agency maintains a third facility, which it uses to stockpile and distribute weapons around the world. The facility has been referred to in declassified documents as the “Midwest Depot”. It is said that billions of dollars of untraceable weapons have been dispatched from the “Midwest Depot” to CIA-supported groups such as Brigade 2506, which conducted the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Other paramilitary groups said to have received weapons from the CIA’s “Midwest Depot” include the Honduras-based Contras, who fought the Sandinistas government in 1980s’ Nicaragua, Angola’s UNITA anti-communist group, as well as the Sunni mujahedeen who fought the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan. Now the location of this mysterious depot may have been unearthed thanks to Allen Thomson, a retired CIA analyst. In a 73-page research paper, Thomson concludes that the location of the “Midwest Depot” is actually in Texas. The paper has been published (.pdf) on the website of the Federation of American Scientists’ Intelligence Resource Program, which maintains an extensive archive on topics of current interest to intelligence researchers. Based on what The New York Times calls “a mosaic of documentation”, Thomson claims that the CIA’s “Midwest Depot” is located inside Camp Stanley, located north of San Antonio, Texas. The latter is officially indexed as a US Army weapons depot. But Thomson says the depot is in fact commanded by the CIA. His paper highlights an explicit reference made to Texas in a memo drafted in 1986 by Colonel Oliver North, who was eventually convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. In it, North states that the CIA would transport missiles headed for Iran from a military facility to its “Midwest Depot, Texas”. Read more of this post

Analysis: The war between Israel and international arms smugglers

Sinai PeninsulaBy IAN ALLEN |
The interception earlier this week of a civilian cargo vessel in the southern Red Sea by Israeli commandos has brought to light the ongoing war between weapons smugglers and the Israeli state. The vessel, named Klos-C, was seized by Israeli forces in international waters, over 1,000 miles away from Israel’s coast. Few observers were surprised by the location of the seizure, which took place in the waters between Eritrea and Sudan. Israeli security planners consider the East African country as a major link in the complex smuggling network that supplies goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip. Tel Aviv has long asserted that the smuggled weapons, which usually originate from Iran or Syria, are secretly carried from Port Sudan into Egypt before eventually ending up across the border into the Palestinian enclave that is controlled by militant group Hamas.

Regular readers of this blog will remember the October 2012 Israeli air attack on the outskirts of Sudanese capital Khartoum, which destroyed an alleged illicit weapons warehouse. In May of 2012, a missile attack in Port Sudan, which was also linked to Israel, killed Nasser Awadallah Ahmed Said, an eminent member of the Red Sea’s Ababda Bedouin tribe, whose members have a long history of smuggling weapons and goods to and from Sudan.

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Are Israeli arms merchants selling weapons to Iran?

A leaked report by American and Greek investigators suggests that an intercepted shipment of military hardware intended for Iran probably originated in Israel. Greek broadsheet Kathimerini said on Sunday it had in its possession a copy of the classified report, which describes the interception of a large shipment of spare parts for military use. The parts are believed to have been intended for use by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). The shipment allegedly contained spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft, which were originally built in the United States in the 1960s for use by the US Navy. The Islamic Republic still maintains a sizable fleet of F-4s, which Iran bought from the US in the 1970s, when the two countries were close allies. But a US-imposed embargo on Iran, which has been in effect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has prevented Tehran from easily acquiring spare parts for its aging fleet of F-4s. The Kathimerini report said that the intercepted shipment had been detected following a joint operation by the Greek Financial Crimes Squad and the US Department of Homeland Security. According to the paper, the secret operation began was underway in late 2012 and concluded in April of 2013. But the most shocking part of the report is that the illegal shipment appears to have originated from Binyamina-Giv’at Ada, a small Israeli town located 30 miles south of Haifa. Investigators said the illicit transfer had been facilitated via a Greek firm registered in the Athens district of Votanikos, called “Tassos Karras SA”, which appears to be a front company. Is it possible that Israeli arms merchants are supplying military spare parts to Iran? The Israeli government has refused comment on the case. Read more of this post

France smashes ‘exceptionally large’ arms smuggling network

An arms smuggling network described by authorities as “exceptionally large” has been smashed in a series of raids across France. Over 45 suspects were arrested and “hundreds of weapons, including machine guns” were seized by French gendarmes early on Monday. French police officials said most of the detainees are suspected traffickers from Eastern Europe, while confiscated evidence includes “weapons of war [meaning fully automatic assault rifles], ammunition and spare parts”. French investigators said the smuggling network had trafficked hundreds of weapons from Balkan countries and Slovakia into France in the past five years. The raids are said to have involved over 300 gendarmes in several simultaneous operations in Paris, in the Rhone, Provence, as well as in Corsica and in several French overseas territories. The police raids marked the culmination of a nationwide investigation that began in early 2012. It focused on a group of 45 ‘gun collectors’, who were found to be using their collector status as a façade in order to illegally acquire assault weapons. The weapons would then be funneled into criminal gangs across France. A near-unprecedented influx of military-grade weapons, especially Kalashnikov assault rifles, has been noted across Europe in recent years. Much of it has been blamed on the rise in demand and availability for such weaponry caused by revolutions in Libya, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. In early November, the Greek Coast Guard seized a cargo ship carrying over 20,000 AK-47s, allegedly bound for Syria or Libya. The ship, named Nour-M, and flagged under Sierra Leone, had set sail from Ukraine and was believed to be en route to Turkey. Read more of this post

Ship carrying 20,000 Kalashnikov rifles seized in Greece

The Hellenic Coast Guard in Greece has seized a cargo ship carrying explosives, ammunition, and about 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, allegedly bound for Syria or Libya. The Associated Press quoted an anonymous official from the Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine, who said that the ship, Nour-M, is flagged under Sierra Leone and set sail from Ukraine early last week. It was intercepted on Friday while passing through Greek territorial waters, near the Aegean island of Symi. Upon inspection, it was found to be carrying thousands of AK-47s, as well as ammunition and an undisclosed quantity of explosives. As the ship’s documentation did not mention the highly irregular cargo, the Greek authorities decided to escort the vessel to the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes, where it remains under Coast Guard protection. The ship’s crew of three Turkish nationals, including the captain, and three Indian nationals, have been arrested. Interestingly, some maritime transportation databases state the vessel’s destination port as Tartus in Syria, while others suggest it was headed to Tripoli in Libya. Adding to the perplexity of the case, the ship’s Turkish captain told Greek authorities that his destination port was Iskenderun in Turkey. The Greek government has refused to give details about the ship’s itinerary, stating simply that “the exact destination of the arms and ammunition has yet to be verified”, while no precise information has been provided about Nour-M’s cargo. There are unconfirmed reports, however, that, in the past, the same vessel has troubled international maritime authorities, who suspect its captain of involvement in international narcotics smuggling. On Friday, the Reuters news agency aired an insightful analysis on the strong connection between the political chaos that rains in the Middle East and North Africa and the increase in smuggling activity across the Mediterranean. Read more of this post


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