Jordanian arms for Colombia's rebels intercepted

Click to follow
The Independent US

The Peruvian secret service has broken up an international arms racket which parachuted at least 10,000 Kalashnikov rifles across the border to leftist rebels in Colombia last year, apparently smuggling them from Jordan via the Canary Islands and through Peru's remote Amazon.

The Peruvian secret service has broken up an international arms racket which parachuted at least 10,000 Kalashnikov rifles across the border to leftist rebels in Colombia last year, apparently smuggling them from Jordan via the Canary Islands and through Peru's remote Amazon.

President Alberto Fujimori said at a press conference in Lima that the blackmarket arms trade through his country, selling weapons to Colombia's largest rebel army in exchange for drug profits, was a serious risk to regional security.

The two-year investigation, code-named Operation Siberia, led to the arrest of six smugglers in Peru, including three ex-military officers from Peru and a Russian middleman. The President expressed alarm that just as Washington prepares to give $1.3bn (£0.87bn) in aid to Colombia to help staunch a blackmarket supply of cocaine and heroin to the US, the civil warfare could escalate across the border and draw his nation into the bloodshed.

Military reinforcements along the hundreds of miles of jungle frontier between Peru and Colombia are in place, intended to prevent incursions by Colombian narcotics traffickers or rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

"Advances by the Farc and strengthening of its fire-power are a danger for Peru. We are not going to get involved in Colombia's domestic affairs but once there is a danger for Peru, the security services will act," the Peruvian President announced sober-faced, with the shadowy chief of intelligence, Vladimoro Montesinos, sitting beside him. The arrests were made before a gun shipment. Peruvian officials outlined with charts and photographs how theweapons were routed to the Marxist guerrillas in southern Colombia, where the rebel army allegedly uses a government granted safe-haven twice the size of Wales for arms stockpiling and hostage-holding.

The source of the guns was Amman, where a former military official obtained them with a falsified documents. They were then loaded onto a leased aircraft before being flown through the Canary Islands and Guyana. From these bases, weapons were air-dropped over southern Colombia, known as Farc-landia, from where the plane flew to Iquitos, a town on Peru's side of the Amazon River. Cocaine was loaded into the hold for the return journey.

President Fujimori stressed there had been no formal no cooperation with the Colombian authorities, but Peruvian intelligence had stopped a fourth consignment of rifles. Five thousand had been delivered in July last year, 2500 in April, and 2500 in March.

The former military officers will face court martials as well as civil trials.

Comments