SMUGGLING ARMS THROUGH SERB KRAJINA
In his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, retired air force colonel Janko Kecman described how weapons were smuggled into the protected zones of Bihac and Srebrenica. Kecman also recounted how the aircraft used to transport the arms were shot down. According to Kecman, the UN peacekeepers proved themselves dishonorable because they were also involved in the smuggling operation
Janko Kecman gave evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic. Kecman served first in the JNA 111st Airborne Brigade and later he became a pilot in the Serb Krajina Army. When he was in the JNA helicopter squadron, Kecman was stationed for a while at the Pleso Airport in Zagreb and at the Zeljava airport near Bihac. After the conflict broke out in Bosnia, Kecman joined the Serb Krajina Army, and was assigned to the Udbina airfield, north of Knin.
In the examination-in-chief, Kecman recounted how in August 1991 he saw a plane loaded with weapons at the Pleso Airport. He and other pilots transported the weapons by helicopter to the JNA warehouse in Bihac. The plane had come from Uganda, and the Republic of Croatia had ordered the consignment. According to the witness, the Croat and Muslim armed forces continued smuggling arms during the war using planes and helicopters which flew over the territory of the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
The RSK forces downed a Ukrainian aircraft during the war, the witness said. That plane did not carry any weapons, but the papers recovered from the wreckage led the RSK soldiers to conclude that it had been used on previous occasions to transport weapons for the BH Army, Kecman explained. Also, as the witness noted, a BH Army soldier was in the plane.
According to the witness, the bodies of the crew were sent to Belgrade where they were buried. The Ukrainian embassy refused to take the bodies because one of them could not be identified. An autopsy performed in 2012 established that the body was that of a BH Army soldier.
Apart from the Ukrainian airplane, the RSK forces shot down a helicopter carrying Irfan Ljubijankic, the wartime BH foreign minister, the witness said at one point.
Planes and helicopters belonging to the Croatian and Muslim forces often flew over Krajina, the witness recounted, bringing in arms, ammunition and military equipment to the protected zones, especially in Bihac and Srebrenica. Weapons were also smuggled by land. According to Kecman, the UN peacekeepers proved themselves dishonorable because they were also involved in the smuggling operation.
Kecman also said in his testimony that about 300,000 people lived in Krajina in 1993. About 80,000 of those were Muslim refugees from the Cazin Krajina. They fled their homes after the BH Army clashed with the troops loyal to Fikret Abdic. The refugees were an economic burden on the Republic of Serb Krajina.
In his statement, the witness said that his colleagues who flew Mladic to various peace talks told him about Mladic's 'professional and humane actions while he and his forces fought against the Croatian National Guard'. The witness and the others found it 'impressive'.
The prosecutor will cross-examine Kecman on Monday.
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