A return to Syria and Ukraine – FN-6 MANPADSNovember 21, 2015
Over the past week there have been two entries relating to terrorists in Syria and Ukraine.
The first related to the arrest of a Russian citizen at Kyiv/Boryspil airport on 11th November, circulated as wanted by Interpol as a leader of a Jamaat of the international terrorist organization ‘Al-Nusra Front’ in 2015, when boarding a flight to Istanbul.
The second related to the further arrest of two individuals with known international terrorism links in MENA two days later within the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zone. Whether they are connected or not is not in the public domain at the time of writing.
Syria and Ukraine however, have once again been mentioned in the same breath this week – notwithstanding all the media speculation over French/European pacts with The Kremlin regarding Syria and Ukraine becoming a bargaining chip.
This time Ukraine has been mentioned in connection with the supplying of arms, specifically Chinese made FN-6 MANPADS to the Islamic State (ISIS). Ukrainian involvement in the smuggling of these weapons comes from the claim of a Lebanese terrorist recently arrested in Kuwait whose role appears to have been heading a criminal group responsible for procuring weapons and raising finance for ISIS.
Ukraine, it should be made clear, neither manufactures these weapons, nor holds them within its military inventory. Ergo if there are any Chinese made FN-6 MANPADS within the territory of Ukraine, they are currently in the areas that the Ukrainian government does not control – namely The Donbas and Kremlin controlled territory. Furthermore Ukraine denies facilitating the movement of these weapons across or from its territory, which is probably true – it cannot afford to upset its western partners for the sake of gun-running a few MANPADS.
However a Syrian named Abdulkarim Mohamed Selem, who was also arrested in Kuwait, owns a Ukrainian registered company that has allegedly been involved in the procurement of weapons and telecommunications equipment. How many were procured and from whom is not in the public domain. Neither is it known if how many purchases were made and over what period. Chinese made FN-6 MANPADS have been used in Syria for the past several years after all – certainly before the illegal annexation of Crimea and events in The Donbas. They may have already been in Syria and changed hands as territory was won and/or lost of course, or they may have arrived by other means.
Ergo it is unclear whether the FN-6 MANPADS physically entered the territory of Ukraine (at least the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine), or not. Ukraine is not embargoed with regard to weapon sales, yet few would seem to want to arm Kyiv so the arrival of Chinese made MANPADS seems unlikely to slip past the throng of spooks with eyes upon all matters Ukrainian.
If FN-6 MANPADS did enter and arrive in the Kremlin controlled occupied Donbas, then it seems fairly certain to have entered via the Kremlin controlled hole in the Ukrainian border.
The claimed weapons route to Syria by those detained in Kuwait is/was via Turkey, but the method of transportation and route via Ukraine (if Ukraine was part of the transit route and not simply a registered address for the company involved in any financial transactions) perhaps depends upon the quantity of weaponry.
Could a charter plane or private boat/yacht been used, or did they go via a commercial port? If so which one? Mariupol, Sevastopol, Odessa, Mykolaiv? Smuggling, like all organised crime, takes the route of least resistance and/or minimum risk. For example, it is easier for organised crime to smuggle weaponry into Europe from the Balkans (where some 6 million weapons remain in circulation following the war) than from Ukraine. Unless there is a need to upgrade an AK47 to an AK74, the Balkans is the place to go for illicit weapons in Europe rather than Ukraine.
Where did the FN-6 MANPADS land in Turkey? What was the route into Syria and to ISIS?
Undoubtedly organised crime continues between Russian and Ukrainian criminality – organised crime has little patriotism after all (other than to money). Thus all nefarious networks and routes remain open for business. It would be possible to smuggle such weaponry to Syria via Ukraine, but possible does not mean it was.
Did this transaction via a Syrian owned Ukrainian registered company occur simply due to the type of weaponry not being readily available in Syria to ISIS any longer, but is readily available via the criminal enterprises within the Kremlin proxies of The Donbas? The entire Syrain region is awash with weaponry and no shortage of sponsors arming proxies, so what was the specific need for Ukrainian involvement (no matter how great or slight) if not the scarcity of a particular weapon type?
If the Kremlin proxies are selling FN-6 MANPADS to the Islamic State from The Donbas, is that likely to have The Kremlin sanction?
If not, then who else are the Kremlin proxies selling MANPADS to? How many will end up in criminal/terrorist hands within Russia and in what quantity?
Undoubtedly the huge number of weapons initially unallocated and unaccounted for from Russia that flooded into The Donbas during 2014 will have seen a large number nefariously renter Russia too. There was good reason for The Kremlin to create the 12th (Reserve) Command after the downing of MH17, and amongst those reasons there was a need for command and control and to get a grip of the administration and allocation of weaponry within the proxy occupied territories. They could no longer be left to run more or less amok.
No doubt many, if not all the answers to these questions (and more), are already known by the counter terrorism/counter intelligence spooks in Kuwait, Ukraine, Russia (and others). Kuwait, some will presume, could be rather persuasive in getting answers to its questions from ISIS detainees – thus any speculating upon the answers to these questions in the public domain is simply that – speculation.
Still, an unusual week where clearly both ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front have managed to get their people arrested due to Ukrainian involvement.