By Danijel Kovacevic
Saudi Arabia has given Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 million US dollars to help deal with the issue of surplus weapons and munitions, much of it left over from the 1992-5 war.
This money is provided for the project “Explode plus”, to complete infrastructure at the Kula munition storage site in Mrkonjic Grad and the Teufik Buza Tufo site in Visoko, central Bosnia.
This is the Gulf country’s second donation this year towards safer ammunition storage in Bosnia.
“After the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was burdened with surplus weapons, ammunition and mine explosive devices. This is a very important project for the security and stability of this part of Europe …
“The aim is to prevent explosions and the smuggling of weapons and ammunition … and I’m grateful to the donor,” Bosnia’s Defence Minister, Marina Pendes, said, after signing the donation.
Saudi ambassador to Bosnia Hani bin Abdullah Mominah said the kingdom earlier donated 1 million dollars to the ammunition storage program, two months ago, which will be implemented through the UN Development Program, UNDP, in Bosnia.
“We have signed a contract for two facilities to be built in accordance with international standards, and are working directly with the Ministry of Defence and the Bosnian Armed Forces to prevent any catastrophe that could be caused by this kind of ammunition,” the UNDP Representative in Bosnia, Sezin Sinanoglu, said.
The Bosnian Defence Ministry said the Explode plus project was a multi-donor platform, implemented by the Bosnian Defence Ministry and UNDP with the support of Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, the US, Saudi Arabia and EUFOR.
Bosnia has 17,000 tons of surplus weapons kept in 12 warehouses across the country. In recent years, several incidents have been reported regarding their inadequate storage.
The latest occurred on Tuesday at the Usivak army barracks, which is being used now to host migrants, where workers, while performing the adaptation works, found four hand grenades, media reported.
In June last year, 14 handguns and a quantity of ammunition were stolen from the barracks in Bileca, in the south of the country.
This winter, under the weight of snow, the roof of a weapon and ammunition warehouse in the army barracks near Banja Luka collapsed. According to media reports, it housed about 70 tons of ammunition and explosive devices.
Saudi Arabia has become a major buyer of Bosnia’s spare ammunition and weapons since 2012 and the start of the Syrian conflict.
Much of these exports are believed to be diverted to Saudi-backed militias in Syria and Yemen, according to BIRN’s earlier investigations.