SARAJEVO Western Balkan governments are searching at making a network of specialists to support tackle the illicit trade in weapons from the area, officials mentioned on Monday, amid issues after the Paris attacks about guns falling into the hands of militant Islamists.
Some of the assault rifles utilised by the perpetrators of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, claimed by Islamic State and in which 130 people died, have been traced to the former Yugoslavia.
Former Yugoslavia, which collapsed in turmoil and war in the 1990s, has extended been a wealthy source of illicit weapons for criminal gangs in Europe. But now there are issues about such weapons also reaching Islamist militants determined to strike in western Europe.
Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic stated France had proposed that the states of the western Balkans – the nations of the former Yugoslavia and Albania – to join forces.
“These weapons have been increasingly utilised in terrorist attacks, and our colleagues from France have proposed that an specialist network be formed in the Western Balkans to crack down on smugglers,” Mektic told reporters right after a conference of safety officials from the region.
Mektic said the network would be open to member states of the European Union. In the Western Balkans only Croatia and Slovenia have so far joined the EU, though other states hope to.
Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic mentioned Serbia had cooperated with France in investigating the origin of the weapons utilised in the Paris attacks.
“The investigation requirements to show, regardless of where the weapons have been developed, how they got there, who have been the individuals who took part in that chain,” Stefanovic stated.
The security conference participants agreed in principle on establishing such a network but they did not go over formal details, said Mektic.
“This initiative is extremely critical, not only for security in western Europe but also due to the fact of security in our countries, exactly where we need to perform on a total de-escalation, to attempt to get hold of as a lot of illegal weapons as achievable,” Stefanovic mentioned.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic Editing by Editing by Matt Robinson and Gareth Jones)