WASHINGTON / BELGRADE --- A small airport on a Croatian island has become an important but unofficial logistical base for Pentagon shipments to the Middle East, likely including arms for Syrian rebels.
Low-cost airlines packed with sun-seekers are the norm for Rijeka airport on the Croatian island of Krk. But since April, they have been sharing a runway with vast cargo planes carrying munitions and unidentified military supplies for the Pentagon’s wars in the Middle East, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has discovered.
Reporters have identified 14 cargo flights in the past six months carrying, or probably carrying, Eastern Bloc-style weapons and ammunition for the US military.
Air traffic control at Rijeka declined to comment on the planes’ cargo, but admitted that there had been “many more” of these types of flights this year.
The upsurge appears to be the result of the Pentagon’s decision to switch its arms supply-line route to Syria away from Germany.
Since April, ten flights have been operated by Pentagon-commissioned air carriers between Rijeka and the US’s airbase in Qatar, Al Udeid Air Base, with the last taking off on September 25.
Each used a specific call-sign, ‘CMB’, given to cargo flights chartered by the Pentagon . Before landing in Rijeka, the planes used a commercial flight number, indicating that the military cargo was picked up in Croatia.
Evidence collected by BIRN suggests the cargo is likely to have been former Eastern Bloc countries’ arms destined for the Middle East.
Qatar has not been named as an official hub for the Pentagon’s programme of arming anti-ISIS fighters, but is listed as the headquarters for US air operations for Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Flight records also show that Pentagon-commissioned cargo planes regularly transport military supplies between Qatar and Kuwait, one of the depots for weapons destined for Syrian rebels.
In June and July, another four flights to Rijeka were carried out by the Azerbaijan airlines Silk Way, which runs a fleet of giant, Russian-built Ilyushin-76 aircraft.
Leaked documents from the cargo carrier reveal that these aircraft delivered ammunition for Soviet-style weapons from Azerbaijan to the Croatian coast on behalf of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, SOCOM. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Balkan Insight website.