During the interview, she said, “These explosive documents are from the Serbian state-owned arms manufacturer Krusik and include e-mails, internal memos, contracts, photos, delivery schedules, and packing lists with lot numbers of weapons and their buyers.”
“I traced two particular lots of Serbian mortar shells which were featured in Islamic State videos and photos in Yemen back to their suppliers – the U.S. government and Saudi Arabia,” Gaytandzhieva explained.
The following is the full transcript of the interview.
Balkans Post: Ms. Gaytandzhieva, you recently revealed a series of documents on weapons supplies to terrorists in Yemen and Syria. What’s the significance of these documents?
Gaytandzhieva: These documents are significant because they expose an international weapons shipment network for arming militants in the Middle East, i.e. Syria and Yemen, including the Islamic State in Yemen. These explosive documents are from the Serbian state-owned arms manufacturer Krusik and include e-mails, internal memos, contracts, photos, delivery schedules, and packing lists with lot numbers of weapons and their buyers.
Among the leaked documents I also received scanned passports of arms dealers and government officials from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They visited the Serbian arms factory to purchase weapons (mortar shells and rockets) on behalf of the U.S. Government, Saudi Defence Ministry and the UAE Army. Some of these weapons, however, have ended up with terrorists in Yemen.
I traced two particular lots of Serbian mortar shells which were featured in Islamic State videos and photos in Yemen back to their suppliers – the U.S. government and Saudi Arabia. In the first video the Serbian mortar shells were purchase by an American company - Alliant Techsystems LLC, under a U.S. federal contract with the Pentagon for the delivery of non U.S. standard weapons to the Afghan Army. However, such mortar shells from the same lot 82 mm M74 HE KV lot 04/18 appear in the hands of ISIS terrorists in their recent video in Yemen.
In the second case (Islamic State photos in Yemen), ISIS terrorists fire Serbian mortar shells 81 mm M72 HE KV Lot 01/18 manufactured by Krusik. They were purchased by the Saudi Ministry of Defence, according to documents from the manufacturer Krusik. The exporter was the Serbian private company GIM, represented by the Serbian interior minister Nebojsa Stefanivic’s father – Branko Stefanovic. Besides being interior minister, his son Nebojsa Stefanivic is also the vice prime minister of Serbia.
BP: What is at stake in Yemen and what goals is the United States pursuing in the Arab country?
Gaytandzhieva: The war in Yemen is a proxy war for control over one of the poorest countries in the world. It has led, according to the UN, to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 24 million people (close to 80 % of the population) being in urgent need of protection and assistance. That includes two million children under-five who are starving to death. It is a war between Iran, on the one hand, and the U.S., Saudi Arabia and UAE, on the other hand. The Islamic State, however, also plays a significant role in this armed conflict. The terrorist group in Yemen fights mainly against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control Northern Yemen. Ironically, in Yemen the U.S. and ISIS have a common enemy – the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
BP: How is the U.S. supplying Serbian weapons to Syria?
Gaytandzhieva: According to these documents, the Pentagon deployed Task Force Smoking Gun to Croatia in 2017 in support of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Train and Equip program in Syria. According to leaked e-mails, Task Force Smoking Gun has been operating an arms depot in the Croatian city of Podhum near Rijeka Airport from where Pentagon-commissioned American carriers (Atlas Air and Kalitta Air) have transported the military cargo to the U.S. air base Al Udeid in Qatar.
The weapons originate from Serbia. The buyers are four American companies which have been contracted by the U.S. Government to supply non-U.S. standard weapons (weapons not in use by the U.S. Army) – Sierra Four Industries, Orbital ATK, Global Ordnance, and UDC.
Leaked passports reveal which U.S. Government officials and private contractors have ordered, inspected and accepted the weapons. The same names have been listed by the Pentagon as recipients of a U.S. Central Command award in recognition of their support to the Syrian Train and Equip program – the U.S. program for arming militants in Syria.
BP: What does the Serbian government gain from the arms deals? Is it just about money?
Gaytandzhieva: I think all is about money. I will explain why. The Serbian vice prime minister’s father Branko Stefanovic mediated the arms deals with Saudi Arabia. He is the representative of the Serbian private company GIM. GIM purchased weapons from the Serbian state-owned company Krusik at a much lower price than other Krusik’s customers, which raises questions as to whether the state-owned company was defrauded by these deals. Not only did these weapons end up with the Islamic State in Yemen, but they were also purchased by GIM (the company represented by the Serbian vice prime minister’s father) at a much lower price than the price initially offered by Krusik, as internal documents reveal. Furthermore, the price which GIM pays per piece of mortar shell is much lower than the price per piece of the same item which the state-owned company Jugoimport SDPR, for instance, pays.
According to the leaked documents, the state-owned arms manufacturer Krusik has been defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars intentionally for the benefit of the private arms company GIM.
After I published this investigation literally two hours later my site Arms Watch was subjected to DDOS attacks twice coming from Serbia. Somebody in Serbia doesn’t want people in Serbia to know the truth. The People in Serbia who ordered these DDOS attacks against Arms Watch are very afraid of the leaked documents being published because they expose a huge corruption scheme inside the state owned arms manufacturer Krusik. However, the news spread fast and the Serbian people now know the truth. If the Serbian prosecutors are independent and work for their country’s interests they must launch immediately an investigation.
Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is a Bulgarian investigative journalist, Middle East correspondent and Arms Watch founder. Over the last two years she has published a series of revealing reports on weapons supplies to terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Her current work is focused on documenting war crimes and illicit arms exports to war zones around the world.