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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Army TNT stolen as munitions destroyed ]

Army TNT stolen as munitions destroyed

Stefanos Evripidou

TWO MEN were arrested after explosives were stolen under the noses of the National Guard (NG) during a controlled destruction of obsolete munitions at Kalo Chorio firing range yesterday. 

During the scheduled destruction of obsolete munitions at around 10am, officials discovered that explosives placed on site by a National Guard explosives expert had gone missing. 

The army placed small amounts of TNT explosives in 42 separate pits at the firing range, each one containing obsolete munitions used for the Bofors anti-aircraft 40mm gun. 

According to a defence ministry source, around 1.4kg of TNT was stolen from one of the 42 pits some time after the explosives expert placed the TNT at the pit and before its supposed detonation. 

The NG only realised the explosives were missing after the detonations were completed, and officials discovered that ammunition earmarked for destruction in one of the pits was still intact while the TNT was nowhere to be seen.  

A police helicopter stationed at Larnaca airport was scrambled to the scene and spotted a number of men in a jeep driving away from the firing range, reportedly in haste. 

In circumstances not yet clear last night, two men, aged 23 and 35, found near the jeep which had stopped,were arrested. The men are metal collectors who reportedly hang around the Kalo Chorio firing range during the controlled destruction to pick up any scrap metal. The explosives were not found in the car. Police are seeking a further three men, also metal collectors, in connection with the theft. The state broadcaster reported yesterday that police believe the three were in the jeep during the helicopter chase. 

Meanwhile, the National Guard is carrying out its own investigation into the theft after the daring theft of explosives during a controlled destruction raised eyebrows pretty high.

A ministry source said the army was looking into the possibility that this might have been an “inside job”. The same source explained that standard procedure for controlled destructions was for the TNT to be placed on site, the explosives expert to retreat to safe ground, wait for the go-ahead from the Larnaca Control Tower and detonate the TNT. 

It appears the TNT was stolen yesterday during a big delay experienced by the Control Tower which held back approval for detonation until aircraft flying overhead were out of range.     

This raises the question, were the perpetrators feeling lucky or did they have inside information that detonation would be delayed? 

Last December, Defence Minister Demetris Eliades said the controlled destruction of obsolete munitions stored in a specially designed safe area near Kalavasos should be completed by April. The munitions had previously piled up in a base near the residential area of Palodia. 

Renewed concerns over safety to civilians were raised in the wake of the Mari disaster in July, when 13 people were killed after the detonation of a massive munitions dump there.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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