Bulgarian investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva has been fired from her job at the Trud newspaper in Bulgaria after reporting how the CIA (and others) run a covert operation where US defense contractors are used to procure weapons from Bulgarian and other East European arms manufacturers and send them to terrorist groups around the world, including al-Qaeda/al-Nusra/ISIS in Syria.
While in Aleppo in December 2016, Gaytandzhieva obtained access to underground weapons storage areas belonging to al-Nusra Front, the terrorist group that was routed from Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian military. In the storage areas Gaytandzhieva found boxes of weapons that displayed airway bill numbers, packing lists and other markings that proved they had come from Bulgarian manufacturers.
More recently, Gaytandzhieva received documents from an anonymous source that included correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy of Azerbaijan in Bulgaria. The leaked documents detail the purchase and movement of tons of weapons to and from European and Middle Eastern nations. The weapons were picked up and flown to their destinations by Azeri national cargo airline Silk Way Airlines under Azeri diplomatic cover in order to avoid inspection.
According to the documents, Silk Way provided weapons transportation flights under diplomatic cover to private companies and arms manufacturers from the USA, the Balkans and Israel, as well as to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US Special Operations Command (USSCOM). The militaries of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan, and the Swedish military in Iraq, have also availed themselves of the services of Silk Way, the documents show.
The documents also reveal that the official destination of some of the flights were not the actual destinations, with flights often making unnecessary stops for several hours in third countries, leaving open the possibility that the weapons cargo was offloaded there. For example, in December 2015, Silk Way made 14 flights with 40 tons of weapons on each plane from Nosony in Azerbaijan to Ostrava in the Czech Republic and then back to Nosony. On the way back from the Czech Republic, however, all planes landed in Ovda military base in the south of Israel and stayed there for several hours before returning to Azerbaijan.
There were also five flights this year from Serbia to Azerbaijan via Israel. Each flight carried 44 tons of weapons, including 1970s-era Czechoslovakian-made RM-70/85 multiple rocket-launcher systems. The seller was MSM Martin in Serbia and the purchaser was Elbit Systems, Israel. Each RM-70/85 system weighs about 33 tons. What does Israel want with up to 10 such 1970s-era systems that are not compatible with Israel’s NATO-compatible military?
When Silk Air planes were not available, Azeri Air Force planes were used. For example, on May 12th 2015, an Azeri Air Force aircraft carried 18 tons of RPGs from Bulgaria to Azerbaijan. The official ‘seller’ of the weapons was the small US defense contractor Purple Shovel. The official ‘buyer’ of the weapons was the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan. The manufacturer was Bulgaria’s VMZ military plant. But the RPGs never arrived in Azerbaijan and instead were offloaded at Turkey’s Incirlik airbase, home to a major US Air Force compound.
What seems to be going on here is that the Pentagon gives $$millions in US taxpayers’ money to US ‘defense contractors’ who then buy weapons from Bulgarian or other Balkan arms manufacturers. The US defense contractor then ‘sells’ the weapons to the Azeri government, which then dispatches a Silk Way plane to pick up ‘their order’. Silk Way then flies the weapons to the real destination desired by the Pentagon, in the above case a US air base near the Syrian border, from where the arms can be shipped to ‘Syrian rebels’ and ISIS.
Purple Shovel was also directly involved in the Obama administration’s farcical 2015 plan to ‘train and equip moderate Syria rebels’ that ended with four or five ‘rebels’ being combat ready. The story goes that Purple Shovel was having a hard time finding the thousands of new RPGs (among other things) that the Pentagon wanted to send to the ‘rebels’, and ended up buying 1980s models from a Bulgarian arms manufacturer. The Pentagon was wary of such out-of-date munitions and Purple Shovel was required to test them and learn how to use them before they could be shipped to the US military, which would then teach the ‘rebels’ how to use them against civilians in Syria. One of Purple Shovel’s trainers was doing just that at a firing range in Bulgaria on June 6th 2015 when one of the RPGs exploded and killed him.
Purple Shovel was also tasked by the Pentagon with acquiring 700 Russian-designed Konkurs missiles for the Syria ‘rebels’. Konkurs are anti-tank weapons that are guided by an attached wire and can hit a target up to two and a half miles away. The problem was that no one had any, except Belarus. Belarus, a staunch ally of Russia, is on a special US State Dept ‘International Traffic in Arms Regulations’ list of countries with bans or special restrictions on arms sales. The Pentagon green-lighted the sale anyway.
Other US contractors were also involved in this illicit arms-for-jihadis program. Major US defense contractor Orbital ATK transported weapons to Afghanistan on 6 diplomatic Silk Way flights in July and August 2015. The route was Azerbaijan – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Azerbaijan – Afghanistan. Orbital ATK was the ‘seller’ of the Bosnian weapons and the Afghan police force was the ‘buyer’.
It’s not clear why the Afghan government could not simply purchase the weapons directly and instead involve a US defense contractor, the Azerbaijani government, and the Azerbaijani national cargo airline. It’s also not clear why the official Afghan national police did not purchase weapons directly from US manufacturers via the Pentagon. Surely the Afghan police would prefer to use superior US-made weapons and US arms manufacturers would appreciate the business. We can’t, of course, be sure that the Afghan police ever received the weapons. Maybe the guys in the black helicopters know.
Another major US defense contractor, Chemring Military Products, appears in the documents as a regular user of Silk Ways arms shipments. One flight in particular on October 18th 2016 was carrying 15.5 tons of 122mm rockets that were bought by Chemring in Belgrade. The official destination was Kabul, Afghanistan, but the flight overflew Afghanistan and landed in Lahore, Pakistan, where it stayed for 2 hours before returning to Afghanistan. One possible explanation for this 1,000km overflight is that the weapons were offloaded in Pakistan, which then might suggest that news reports about ‘Pakistan arming the Taleban’ may not be exactly correct. A more accurate news headline might be: ‘US defense contractors arm Taleban by way of Pakistan in order to justify continued military presence in Afghanistan as a roadblock against Chinese and Russian economic expansion’
No one should be surprised to learn that Silk Way airlines is also very popular with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both appear in the documents as regularly using this arms smuggling network. In the case of Saudi Arabia, there are 23 flights from Bulgaria and Serbia to the headchoppers’ kingdom via Azerbaijan. On April 28th and May 12th this year, the Saudis commissioned two diplomatic flights from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria and then to Jeddah and Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo where the ‘purchaser’ was allegedly the Republican Guard of the Congo. The tons of mortars and anti-tank grenades on board the two flights, including SPG-9 and GP-25 variants, were ‘held up’ however for 12hrs 30min and 14hrs respectively in Jeddah. In June this year, those very same weapons were discovered by the Iraqi army in and ISIS warehouse in Mosul. It should be noted that the Saudi military does not use these non-NATO-issue weapons.
The leaked documents also show that three Silk Way flights in March and April this year flew from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria and then on to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Each plane carried 10.8 tons of armor-piercing warheads for RPG-7s. The exporter was Samel-90 in Bulgaria, the importer was ‘al-Tuff LLC’ of the UAE, which just happens to be a subsidiary of the aforementioned US defense contractor, Orbital ATK. Again it should be noted that these weapons do not comply with UAE’s NATO-standard military infrastructure. That is to say, these weapons were not destined for use by the UAE military.
If anyone was still wondering why ISIS was able to overrun Syria and almost defeat the Syrian Arab Army and slaughter hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the process before Russia intervened, now you know.