Raiders steal 64 warheads from military train

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Romanian police are struggling to find the culprits responsible for the theft of 64 missile warheads from a train carrying military equipment across the border to neighbouring Bulgaria.

Unconfirmed news reports said the train was loaded on Friday, but before reaching the Romanian Danube port of Giurgiu on the border with Bulgaria, the driver had made what appeared to have been an illicit stop in the town of Stanesti, allegedly in order to smuggle some 70 litres of diesel fuel.

The 10 policemen supposed to be guarding the transport had gathered in the front carriage and were watching television while the train was stopped. The thieves were therefore able to make off with the warheads undetected, the reports said.

Railway staff said their suspicions were raised when the train arrived at Giurgiu and they noticed that a seal on one of the carriages containing the warheads had been broken. Romanian prosecutors said yesterday that they had questioned more than 50 people. Officials insisted there was little threat posed by the theft of the warheads.

Florin Hulea, a Romanian police spokesman said the weapons were merely components and were not dangerous, because they were not assembled into a missile system.

The claims were backed by Eugen Badalan, a parliamentary defence committee spokesman. "The thieves had no idea what they stole," he said.

In a government statement, the ministry said that the shipment was part of a transfer of "non-functional components and parts" for reprocessing at one of central Bulgaria's largest military factories in Sopot, where the components and parts were to be replaced and the warheads prepared for sale.

"The fuses (warheads) were transported separately from the projectiles," the ministry added.