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Bosnia: IFOR Confiscates Surprising Array Of Weapons

Banja Luka, Bosnia; 5 September 1996 (RFE/RL)- NATO's peace-implementation force in Bosnia (IFOR) has confiscated an unusual array of unauthorized military equipment from an authorized convoy of Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry vehicles.

The confiscated equipment included a self-propelled anti-aircraft system, a multi-rocket launcher, ten cannons and two armored vehicles, said IFOR. Also confiscated was a truck equipped with what the IFOR spokesman in Banja Luka, Colonel Paul Brook, described as a professional, but homemade rocket launcher system. The system was comprised of two anti-aircraft launcher system pods, each of which carries 16, 57 mm rockets.

Brook told RFE/RL that IFOR examined the system today, and confirmed that at some time in the past it was actually used to launch rockets. Brook said the discovery of the unauthorized equipment came as a complete surprise.

"We would not expect the Ministry of Interior police to hold anti-aircraft systems," he said. "This is clearly not in compliance with the Dayton Accord."

It is routine for IFOR to check all authorized moves by local forces to ensure their compliance. Brook said IFOR has not received any explanation from the Bosnian Serbs at any level.

Complaints are being filed by IFOR with the military chain of command and Bosnian Serb Republic officials.

IFOR is conducting an inventory of the confiscated equipment and making it safe, since it was accompanied by what Brook called a lot of ammunition.

Yesterday's incident arose after Bosnian Serb police applied for and received IFOR permission to transfer two armored vehicles from the Banja Luka police academy to a Bosnia Serb registered weapons depot at Mali Logor army barracks on the other side of Banja Luka.

A British military police patrol sent to check on the move saw that there were more vehicles in the convoy that the two authorized. They asked for and received authorization from IFOR headquarters to stop the vehicles and ordered their confiscation.

While arrangements were being made for the transfer of the equipment, an angry crowd of as many as 200 civilians assembled and surrounded the convoy. IFOR and United Nations police officials say neither the civilian police nor the Interior Ministry police made any attempt to calm the crowd.

The crowd tried to overturn a British military police vehicle, but the British commander on the scene -- believing his men to be in danger -- fired a single shot from his pistol into the air, said IFOR. The crowd calmed down and moved back to let the convoy depart.

When the convoy arrived at the Mali Logor barracks, a second unruly crowd surrounded it. Local police made no attempt to disperse the crowd until Banja Luka Police Chief Stojan Davidovich appeared and calmed the crowd.