An investigative group has published an in-depth report confirming a large-scale arms trade deal between countries in the Balkans – and Middle Eastern governments that support the war in Syria.
The estimated €1.2bn worth of weapons have been shipped to the region since 2012, including AK-47s, mortar shells, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
The study, Making a Killing: The 1.2 Billion Euros Arms Pipeline to Middle East, says:
An unprecedented flow of weapons from Central and Eastern Europe is flooding the battlefields of the Middle East.
Widespread reports of Middle Eastern government’s support for armed groups have been circulating as far back as 2013. Militant groups, including many affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in receipt of the Eastern Europe-sourced weapons have been accused of numerous human rights abuses – including the beheading of a teenage boy earlier this month.
The unprecedented flow of weapons is reported by the New York Times to have begun in 2012 and involved Croatia making available huge stocks of arms and ammunition to four countries supporting the opposition in Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – all ferocious backers of regime change in Syria, received stockpiles of arms and ammunition from 68 flights in the last 13 months, according to the report.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) analysed flight traffic data and air traffic control sources – identifying Belgrade, Sofia and Bratislava as the main hubs for the arms trafficking.
Citing a former diplomat and leaked documents, BIRN and the OCCRP said weapons are delivered to regional airports – including Ankara, Turkey – and delivered by road or airdrop to militants fighting the Syrian state.
This week, Syrian troops and allies completed the encirclement of Aleppo – cutting the last arms and ammunition supply line to militants from the north of the country up to the Turkish border.
Read the full report here.
Featured Image: FSA militant group training with Croatia-sourced weapons – Dera’a, 2013.