The recent theft of a large number of firearms from a military facility near Sarajevo is only the latest in a series of similar cases that took place in recent years and according to authorities, the issue is turning into a major security threat.
Large quantities of firearms have been stolen from barracks in BiH at least ten times in the past ten years. The weapons have a high value on the black market.
The latest theft took place at the Zaim Imamovic barracks near Sarajevo on February 11th. Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) is investigating the case and several people have been questioned. The number of weapons stolen was not officially disclosed, but reportedly it was 25 handguns.
“I can say that a certain amount of pistols was stolen, including signal pistols. We are not authorized to provide more information until the investigation is completed,” said Mirko Okolic, Deputy Minister of Defense.
A longtime member of Bosnia’s parliamentary commission for defence and security, Dusanka Majkic, recently raised the issue.
“What happened and how is it possible that the person who entered the warehouse knew where the handguns were?” Majkic asked.
“Did someone from the Armed Forces do it? Or was it done by someone who is in collusion with someone in the Armed Forces?” she asked, adding that the circumstances of the theft were suspicious.
Firearms are stored in several facilities of the Armed Forces across BiH. The Ministry of Defense claims they are stored according to NATO standards. However, the ministry also said that the problem is not the regulations, but individuals who should be enforcing them.
Another major concern in Bosnia is the number of firearms that can be found on the black market.
Majkic said that it was found that those firearms would often end up in Western Europe, where they end up in the wrong hands.
“These are either terrorist or criminal groups,” she stressed.
Numerous cases of the mysterious disappearance of firearms from military facilities were also investigated by the Military Police. One such case from 2017 in Bileca resulted in the sanctioning of certain members of the Armed Forces, but it was not established that they were directly involved in the theft.
Another case took place in 2018 at the Milos Obilic barracks in Pale, when a large number of firearms was stolen. One member of the Armed Forces was convicted in relation to it.
During a raid connected to the case, SIPA found, among other things, 17 hand grenades, several assault rifles and ammunition.