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Nov 27, 2008

BATSUB has no answers on British grenades

Story PictureTwo grenades, one in September and another as recent as a few days ago, have surfaced in the streets of Belize City. The matter has landed a black eye on the British Army Training Support Unit Belize, BATSUB. Tonight its Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Germain, admits he cannot explain how British-issued grenades found their way in the wrong hands. He can say, however, that they were likely part of a batch that went missing back in 2004 and are only now surfacing. We visited with him this morning at BATSUB’s headquarters at Price Barracks in Ladyville.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Germain, Comdr., BATSUB
“As far back as five years ago in May, 2004 there was another incident where some grenades were reported missing, again from BATSUB and again it was the subject of a police report to try and establish how they’d gone missing. Unfortunately, with the forensics and efforts to try and establish it, they were never able to work out exactly where they’d gone missing from given that they were stored in a secure compound. We weren’t sure whether they went missing in transit from the UK and no one was ever able to establish beyond doubt, where they went. So they were on the street and of course, happening for five years now. The grenade thrown two weeks ago was believed to be from that batch.”

Marion Ali
“Obviously, it didn’t go missing in transit if it ended up on Belize City streets. It went missing from the compound here, not on it’s way from London.”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“That’s more than likely, now that it’s turned up but at the time when they were investigating, the grenade hadn’t turned up so we weren’t able to establish.”

Marion Ali
“So now where does the investigation take you?”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“Of course, that was five years ago and any forensics and any of the individuals who were involved were spoken to by the Special Investigations Branch at the time to try and establish what, if anything, they knew. As soon as the loss was identified, the police were called in to try and establish where the problem was but they were never able to identify an individual who had been involved in the theft of those grenades.”

Marion Ali
“You’re saying BATSUB believes these grenades went missing from four years ago, not recently?”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“Yeah, and that historically was the subject of the police investigation four or five years ago.”

Marion Ali
“How stringent now are the measures to ensure that these types of things do not ever again recur?”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“That’s a good question, Marion, and one that I can reassure everyone as I did in September after that incident in the parade, we felt that our measures were amply rigorous and certainly in the compound now, it’s a heavily fortified compound, it’s guarded twenty-four-seven by armed B.D.F. guards. So I would be very surprised if anything were to go missing from there. Obviously, we do countless accountancy checks of the equipment and the ammunition stored in there and I can confirm that all is present in there. As I said in September, those grenades are issued to troops to use in the field and once they get out of the compound and they are being used in the field for proper military training, it is more tricky to be quite so rigorous as we are in the compound. However, because of the incident in September, we have looked into every single procedure of where those grenades go and look for any measure possible where we could tighten up any potential loophole that someone might have found in order to take some grenades. All it takes is one dishonest person out of nine hundred to a thousand or so who might have had access over the period when they’ve been using them. And if that dishonest person chooses to find that loophole and make use of it, then it makes it tricky for us but I think that in the last two months since September we’ve done all we can to tighten up any potential possible loophole and because no one has yet been found to give us a feel for how the grenades got out.”

Marion Ali
“You’re not sure whether the grenades that are now surfacing in the Belize City streets originated from the batch missing four years ago or the one from last September?”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“Well, the police have show us the fly-off lever, not me personally, and the batch number that indicates on that shows that that was issued to BATSUB in December 2003 so that leads e to believe that it went on to the streets some time in 2004 through whatever method. It could be a British, it could be a B.D.F., it could be a civilian; I just don’t know to be honest.”

Marion Ali
“Civilians have access to these things?”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“Well, civilians inevitably exist on Mountain Pine Ridge, we employ civilians when we’re training up there. They don’t normally have access to ammunition or weapons but they are in the vicinity. It’s pure speculation, Marion, to be honest and you asked me to say who might be to blame and it’s impossible for me to say and I really wish I could because then we’d be able to wholeheartedly clamp down on the individual in the system and then I can say more categorically that there are no more grenades out there.”

Marion Ali
“But ultimately, the British lost highly deadly, lethal weapons from out of your custody. So that is—to me that is some indication that yourselves are also at fault.”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“I can’t deny to the public listening in that at the end of the day these grenades we in the charge of the British army and had been issued out to various soldiers and at somewhere along the line they have gone missing. So yes, in terms of accountability, there was clearly a flaw. All I can say is that they are required to swear when they leave the range that they have no parts, no weapons, no ammunition on their possession, they are searched. But if someone is absolutely determined to steal these things, then they will find a way around it and we have done all that we can to absolutely minimize that possibility.”

But even if BATSUB is implementing stringent measures to prevent grenade smuggling, it is still quite likely that these deadly weapons may surface on the streets again since no one can say how many are actually unaccounted for. But Germain does urge the public to call in with information leading to the recovery of these lethal devices.

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“The damage has been done, someone somewhere has been dishonest and I don’t know whether they were dishonest with one or two grenades, or ten or twenty grenades and I’m afraid that’s the honest answer and all I will say and I would beseech anyone who knows anything about these indiscriminate and cowardly weapon systems when they are in the wrong hands, if they know anything to inform the police or inform the station. There is a confidential number out there that’s been put out and then that will allow the police a decent chance to try and recover some of these weapon systems—well, as many and all if possible. But to recover any off the street will be better than recovering none.”

Marion Ali
“How deadly are these? Can you just…”

Lt. Colonel Peter Germain
“Yeah, they are deadly, they are used in real war situations and people standing close when it goes off will be severely injured if not worse. If anyone does come across one please don’t pick it up and play with it, don’t fiddle with it. They are dangerous, they are lethal, just immediately move away from the area, keep hard cover between you and it and phone the police.”

On September sixth a British-issued grenade was thrown in the vicinity of the K.H.M.H. where thousands of spectators had gathered to view the carnival road march. Two weeks ago, another grenade, also from the British forces, was hurled into a yard on Fabers Road. Fortunately, no one has been injured as a result.

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