Giant Serb weapons stash seized
Much of Serbia’s weaponry comes from its military. Source: Wikimedia
Serbia’s police have seized weapons, including more than 100 grenades and 30kg of explosives, home affairs minister Nebojsa Stefanovic announced, the largest quantity uncovered in 15 years in a country flooded with illegal arms.
Ten people were detained in raids in the northern towns of Apatin and Sombor, near the Croatian border, which also uncovered 12 anti-armour grenades, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, detonators, night-vision equipment, eight rifles, a heavy machine gun, semi-automatic rifles and 6,000 rounds.
“We are worried not only because of the probable use of weapons in our country, but also because of the probability they could have ended up in European capitals and been used in criminal acts,” Stefanovic said. “There are always concerns about the terrorist threat.”
Arms, including automatic and anti-tank weapons, remain in private hands after the Balkan wars of the 1990s with criminal groups regularly smuggling weapons outside the region. Some of the rifles used by Islamists who killed 130 people in Paris a year ago were manufactured in the 1980s for the Yugoslav armed forces.
A rocket launcher carried into the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, where 12 people were killed in January last year, was also manufactured in the Balkans.
The latest weapons find comes after several mob killings in Serbia as tensions appear on the rise in the region.
Montenegro is investigating an alleged plot to influence its general election in October, when 20 Serbs were arrested and accused of planning armed attacks.
Serb police last month moved Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his family to a safe location after a stash of weapons were found near his parents’ home, which he reportedly visited regularly.
The republic is also coping with an ongoing refugee crisis. According to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, around 150 migrants arrive in the republic every day, either through Bulgaria or Macedonia. Some of them had already been stranded in refugee camps in Greece for a long time.
Serbia has more than 6,000 refugees, most of whom hope to head northwest to other countries.
Single men normally stayed in Belgrade, often sleeping rough, to be closer to the smugglers, said Tatjana Ristic of Save the Children in Serbia.
“People are more vulnerable now because there is no system in place to protect them and they will only rely on smugglers,” said Tatjana. “Numbers are smaller, but the situation is worse.”