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    January 4, 2016

    Bulgaria unloading Soviet military gear for US, Saudi, and UAE dollars. Destination: Syria


    Valentin VASILESCU
    In VoltaireNet, December 24, 2015
    Originally in Romanian, this tr is from VoltaireNet's French, by Tom Winter, January 4, 2016

     A BIRN investigation shows that since 2011 the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have bought more than 600 million dollars worth of Soviet-style equipment in Bulgaria for armed groups fighting against the Syrian Arab Republic. 

    This traffic contravenes UN principles that prohibit attempting to overthrow a government by supplying offensive weapons to domestic opponents or to external mercenaries.

    Since the beginning of the war against Syria, the US government spent 500 million dollars in Bulgaria on Soviet-type weapons. The military gear includes 18,800 portable anti-tank grenade launchers and 700 Konkurs anti-tank missile systems.

    These weapons were delivered by SOCOM (Special Operations Command of the Pentagon) to the Syrian "rebels." The transactions were managed through a Delaware shell company (Shovel Purple), belonging to Benjamin Worrell, an agent since 1993 the 902 group for counter-insurgency, Fort Meade, US Army. Surprisingly most of these weapons arrived in the hands of the EIS. [1] In a previous article, we discussed the request of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Croatia to provide the Syrian "rebels" with anti-tank weapons, via Jordan. [2] And these weapons now widely equip the EIS.


    An inquiry of Maria Petkova published in Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) [3], proves that Bulgaria is providing weapons to terrorists in Syria and to another US affiliate. Anti-tank weapons like the US BGM-71 TOW thus come into the possession of the EIS, although Bulgaria (member of NATO and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition) is on record declaring they do not participate except with humanitarian aid operations in Syria.

    From October 2014, Boeing 747 jumbo jets owned by the Saudi air company Saudi Arabian Cargo began to land at Sofia International Airport. The novelty lies in the fact no cargo plane has landed in Sofia since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Two such flights of Saudi cargo have been documented in late October 2014, one in November 2014, four in December 2014 and in March and May 2015. According to the flight plan, the Saudi planes took off empty from Jeddah, to land in Sofia, where they loaded cargo under the supervision of the Bulgarian army, and took off again to Tabuk, a Saudi airport, located 100 km the border with Jordan. 

    Interestingly, overflight and landing authorization for these flights were issued by the Ministry of Defence, unlike ordinary cargo aircraft that would getthe authorizations from the Civil Aviation Authority. In accordance with Annex 18 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation Chicago, Annex III of the European Council Regulation EEC No. 3922 and the manual for the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9284 (Technical instructions for the safe transport of dangerous goods by air), this type of authorization granted to foreign aircraft, registered as civilian, indicates that they are transporting dangerous goods. These flights are considered special flights and receive the same priority as presidential aircraft. Thus it was that there were observed, on the tarmac of Sofia, military-type loading cranes used to transport arms and ammunition. Each plane carried about 80 tons of cargo.

    Later, Airbus A330F freighters and Boeing 777F owned by Etihad Cargo of the UAE, 
    started arriving at Sofia airport under this special regime. They took off from Abu Dhabi. From June 2015 to mid-August 2015, this company's freighters conducted those special missions in Sofia. On October 19, an Airbus 330F of Etihad Cargo landed at the airport of Burgas in Bulgaria and, after loading its special cargo took off for the air base of Al Dhafra, the destination airport of all the 'Etihad Cargo flights. This air base is home for French Rafales and US planes (five of which are F-22) that bombard the IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

    The annual report on Bulgaria's military industry exports, published in August 2015, states in the first part of the year, a delivery of weapons worth 85 million euros to Saudi Arabia. From August until the end of 2015, weapons were also delivered to Saudi Arabia for 29 million euros. The Bulgarian government has admitted that they issued permits for the sale of weapons, for 2014-15, with the UAE as the end user, in addition to those of Saudi Arabia. Bulgaria had sold arms to the UAE in 2014-2015 for $ 30 million.

    A UN report details the list of goods transported from Bulgaria to Saudi Arabia, via Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, owned by Saudi Arabian Cargo. It contained about 827 machine guns with mounting systems for Toyota pickups and 120 anti-tank systems of the type SPG-9 [4]. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are equipped with modern weapons of Western production, excluding the purchase of Bulgarian Soviet-style weapons for their own armies. A senior officer of the Bulgarian Army Intelligence acknowledged for BIRN that these weapons were mainly for "the Syrian opposition" and that it is possible that some of them have arrived in Yemen. Like these weapons and the Croatian Bulgarian weapons that were recently discovered in the arsenal of ISIS fighters.
    _____________________________
    [1] “Report : Islamic State may have taken anti-tank weapons from Syrian rebels”, Thomas Gibbons-Neff,The Washington Post, September 7, 2014
    [2] « Pourquoi a-t-on admis la Croatie dans l’Union européenne ? », Valentin Vasilescu, Réseau International, 12 juillet 2013.
    [3] “War Gains : Bulgarian Arms Add Fuel to Middle East Conflicts”, Maria Petkova, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, December 21, 2015.
    [4] « Le mystère des milliers de camionnettes Toyota de l’EI », Valentin Vasilescu, Réseau International, 9 octobre 2015.
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