After our information was published, Prosecutor’s General office began an investigation, and we continued to look for traces of Bulgarian weapons beyond the port from which they were shipped–Burgas.
It turns out this was only one of many regular Burgas-Jeddah trips made by Marianne Danica during the recent months. According to Marinetraffic.com archives, this ship departed Burgas on March 7 and arrived in Jeddah on March 17. After a 12-hour port stay for unloading, it return to Burgas on March 28 at 9am. In the morning, Marianne Danica received a new batch of weapons and 9 hours later it was once again on its way to Saudi Arabia. The trips followed one another without a break, the ship did not stop anywhere else along the way. It only stopped for a few hours at Burgas and Jeddah. In the course of one month, it made two trips back and forth between Bulgaria and Saudi Arabia, carrying Bulgarian weapons.
Trud asked the VMZ-Sopot arms manufacturer for comments but, in spite of numerous requests, we have not received a single answer. The Saudi embassy stated that it will not explain where Saudi Arabia sent Bulgarian weapons, even though the Saudi military uses only Saudi weapons which are incompatible with Bulgarian munitions.
In an exclusive interview with Trud, Colonel Malik Al-Kurdi, a commander within the Free Syrian Army which is the West’s ally in its effort to overthrow the Syrian government, said that Saudi Arabia, together with intelligence services of 15 other countries, sends weapons to Syrian jihadists under the guise of aiding “moderate opposition” (the full interview is included below).
Our investigation has shown that VMZ-Sopot has a contract on supplying weapons with two US firms, Chemring and its affiliate Chemring Ordnance, and Orbital ATK. Both firms are US government contractors. In 2016 alone, Chemring obtained two contracts worth $47 million for supplying weapons which are not compatible with US systems (in this instance, Bulgarian), under the Non-Standard Weapons Acquisition Program. According to the official information about the company on the internet, these weapons are intended for US needs and for its allies. Orbital ATK received a contract to procure non-US weapons worth $50 million under the same program on January 27, 2016. Orbital ATK did not respond to Trud inquiries concerning which US allies were receiving VMZ-Sopot weapons.
In its reply to Trud, Chemring claimed that the information is confidential and recommended contacting VMZ-Sopot.
The ship’s owner, H. Folmer & Co. also refused to comment. Our investigation has shown this is not the first time the ship was used to transport weapons to problem regions. Amnesty International accused Marianne Danica in supplying tear gas to Egypt for use by the Hosni Mubarak regime on November 26, 2011 during the Arab Spring when hundreds of protesters were killed by the president’s forces on Tahrir Square in Cairo. The ship was chartered by a US firm, and after the ensuing scandal the US State Department spokesman confirmed the US firm even obtained the required export license.
From the interview with FSA representative Malik Al-Kurdi.
–How do you go about obtaining weapons?
– There is a headquarters comprising representatives of 15 countries, located in Turkey and Jordan. The weapons reach us through that HQ–how, it’s not our concern, we only care that the weapons arrive. We have clearly warned the Americans and Europeans that the weapons which are passing through the FSA General HQ are going to organizations which the West has declared to be terrorist organizations. It’s a double game–on the one hand, these organizations are labeled as terrorists, but on the other–they are receiving weapons through that HQ. It was surprising and embarrassing, but we still have no explanation. Even the FSA was deprived of weapons deliveries and received very little. Those who received the weapons were supposed to adhere to a certain ideology. By that I mean radical Islamism.
More than 15 foreign intelligence services are freely operating on Syria’s territory. Even the weapons deliveries through FSA HQ are under their control. These services belong to the US, UK, France, Persian Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and others. These services control weapon distribution among the rebels, with some going to the FSA but the majority being earmarked for the radical Islamists.
–Am I correct in understanding that what’s happening currently in Syria is the result of 15 countries supporting and financing Al-Qaeda?
–Yes, we can definitely say that, but the foreign intelligence services are acting in a contradictory manner. They can accuse someone of being a terrorist even as they are supporting them in order to obtain certain goals, in accordance with their political priorities, without even realizing that.
–How did you receive those weapons for terrorist groups in Syria?
–There are special networks which which handle the direct deliveries of these weapons, as part of deliveries to the FSA HQ. Another part of this aid is being sent as cash to these organizations, to allow them to procure weapons on the black market or obtain them directly from the intelligence services.
The FSA General HQ has the role of the intermediary between the countries providing the weapons and the militant units. The weapons are supplied in accordance with already prepared lists, and the HQ cannot make major changes to it.