FEARS OVER SECRET U.S. ARMS SHIPMENT
SOME 200,000 guns the US sent to Iraqi security forces may have been smuggled to terrorists, it was feared yesterday.
The 99-tonne cache of AK47s was to have been secretly flown out from a US base in Bosnia. But the four planeloads of arms have vanished.
Orders for the deal to go ahead were given by the US Department of Defense. But the work was contracted out via a complex web of private arms traders.
And the Moldovan airline used to transport the shipment was blasted by the UN in 2003 for smuggling arms to Liberia, human rights group Amnesty has discovered.
It follows a separate probe claiming that thousands of guns meant for Iraq's police and army instead went to al-Qaeda
Amnesty chief spokesman Mike Blakemore said: "It's unbelievable that no one can account for 200,000 assault rifles. If these weapons have gone missing it's a terrifying prospect." American defence chiefs hired a US firm to take the guns, from the 90s Bosnian war, to Iraq.
But air traffic controllers in Baghdad have no record of the flights, which supposedly took off between July 2004 and July 2005. A coalition forces spokesman confirmed they had not received "any weapons from Bosnia" and added they were "not aware of any purchases for Iraq from Bosnia". Nato and US officials have already voiced fears that Bosnian arms - sold by US, British and Swiss firms - are being passed to insurgents. A Nato spokesman said: "There's no tracking mechanism to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. There are concerns that some may have been siphoned off." This year a newspaper claimed two UK firms were involved in a deal in which thousands of guns for Iraqi forces were re-routed to al-Qaeda.
One arms broker's lawyer is said to have admitted that nearly all of a shipment of 1,500 AK-47s went missing. And a US official said £270million of equipment could not be traced.
Meanwhile, Aerocom, the Moldovan air firm at the centre of the 200,000 missing AK47s, was stripped of its licence by its national authorities a day before the first shipment.
Two other companies in the complicated sale claim to have papers proving the guns were delivered in Iraq but refuse to show them.
Amnesty has now called on Britain to clamp down on the arms trade.
Spokeswoman Kate Allen said: "It's out of control and costing hundreds of thousands of lives every year. The UK has a real chance to do something about it when the UN meets in June."
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