When you follow the gun trail, you
sometimes end up in unexpected places
Robert Fisk, discusses how he followed the
trail of weapons from the front lines of
Syria to a small village in Bosnia
By Robert Fisk
December 09, 2019 "Information
- I’ve always wanted to
find out where the guns came from. Who were
the ‘willing accomplices’ to the wars I
1996, I traced to its Boeing makers in the
deep south of the US a missile fired by the
Israelis at a Lebanese ambulance. It killed
two women and four children. I even went to
Georgia and met the developers of the rocket
that killed them. And in
deep in the basement of a bombed Nusra-al-Qaeda
headquarters in Aleppo, I found hundreds of
mortars – along with their shipment
documents and factory instructions. They
were to be used against the Assad regime.
But who had supplied them?
had been made in Novi Travnik in
a town I knew well because I had covered the
Bosnian war. One of the shipment papers
carried the dispatcher’s name: Ifet Krnjic.
I felt – I absolutely believed — I could
find this man. A hunch? No. I set off to
Novi Tavnik with the conviction that this
man was there and would talk to me. And we
found him, mowing his lawn on a Sunday
afternoon in a neighbouring village.
As our cameras rolled and I
pulled out my notepad, Krnjic touched the
document I’d brought from Aleppo, pointed to
his name and said: “That’s my signature.”
Who did he send them to? The Saudis, he
said. A Saudi minister and three Saudi army
officers had visited him at the factory.
Gotcha! I thought.
Krnjic was an honourable and good man, a
member of the old Yugoslav Communist party.
He wanted to tell the truth and he
understood what I was after: how did these
mortars reach Syria?
The Saudis denied it all,
of course, as if the documents and the
mortars were fake. They had no part in this,
they said. I thought very differently. These
weapons – there were more mortars in that
basement than the entire British army
possessed – were, I was sure, shipped to
Saudi Arabia and then to Turkey and then
crossed the Syrian border to the city in
which I found them, 12 miles from the
frontier, in Aleppo.
It was old-style
journalism, I know. But why call it
‘old-style’? It’s the only way. It’s
journalism, I think, as it should be. You
can’t investigate weapons movements on this
scale on social media. This was the real
thing: hunting down the facts by clambering
through ruins and then flying and driving
across thousands of miles until you find the
one man who can tell the whole story. From
the wreckage of Aleppo to the fields of
When I think of the story
The Independent got that day, I still
smile to myself. Maybe reporters and cops
have a lot in common. Detective Inspector
Fisk got his man.
This article was originally published by
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