Krk Airport Becomes Pentagon’s Airlift Hub

Total Croatia News

An unusual number of US military aircraft lands on the Croatian island.

The airport on the island of Krk has become an important logistics base for the US Defence Department, which uses it for its weapons shipments to the Middle East, according to Balkan Insight, reports Večernji List on October 4, 2017.

While the airport is usually used by low-cost air carriers and people looking for summer sunshine, since April many large transport aircraft carrying ammunition and unidentified military supplies for US wars in the Middle East have also been seen there, according to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

Ten flights have connected Rijeka with the US air base in Qatar, Al Udeid. The last aircraft took off on 25 September. Each aircraft used the CMB call sign. Before landing in Rijeka, the aircraft used commercial flight numbers which demonstrate that military supplies were loaded in Croatia. Other data also show that transport aircraft regularly carry military supplies from Qatar to Kuwait, to warehouses destined for Syrian rebels.

Four additional flights were conducted in June and July by the Silk Way air carrier from Azerbaijan, which uses a fleet of large Russian Il-76 aircraft. SOCOM, a secretive branch of the US Army, allegedly purchases equipment and weapons for Syrian rebels, and Rijeka has become a hub for military flights after the US stopped sending supplies to Syria via military bases in Germany. The Pentagon has not confirmed that it had used Germany for sending military equipment to Syria. However, other information shows that the Pentagon had used German bases and that it now sends weapons to Syria through Croatia.

According to documents, the Pentagon has bought large quantities of Bulgarian ammunition for Iraqi and Syrian rebels in September 2016, in the amount of 16 million dollars. The arrival of transport flights to the Croatian island of Krk coincided with the first contract between the Pentagon and the Alan agency, the Croatian state-owned arms dealer. In April, the Pentagon signed a 12.4 million dollar contract for weapons from the former Eastern Bloc. When BIRN asked the Alan agency about the final destination of the consignments, the agency did not respond. “We firmly reject all the assumptions from your messages,” the agency wrote.

The Croatian government and the Pentagon did not respond to questions about the use of the airport as a hub for military flights (the Croatian Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs did not provide a response, while the Economy Ministry said it was secret information).

Damir Ružić, head of the flight control at the airport, said: “There are reasons why the aeroplanes are coming. The airport is not the one which brings them here.” However, Almira Brtan, who rents out apartments near the airport, described that her guests thought the war was about to start, especially when a large Illyrian-76 flew overhead. She added that people would stand up on the beach to see what was going on because it looked like the planes would land on their heads.

Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević reacted on Wednesday to the report. “Croatia works together with our friends and allies. You know that I was at the Pentagon a couple of months ago, that I talked with Defence Secretary Mattis, you know what Mattis said about the Operation Storm, that this was a top-notch operation carried out by a well prepared and trained army. You are aware that the US is our key partner, ally, that they have been very helpful in the whole process of joining NATO and the EU. Today, we have a visit by the German Defence Minister, just a few days ago we had defence ministers from Poland, Israel, Sweden. Within the framework of partnership and friendship with other countries, we are using the Croatian infrastructure, but this infrastructure is used in line with all the international agreements and programmes, and this is something which partners, allies and friends do,” said Krstičević, without providing any details.


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