Russian weapons in Baghdad: Suspicion falls on Maliki's men

Russian weapons in Baghdad: Suspicion falls on Maliki's men
A business owner allied to Maliki has been blamed for a shipment of Russian weapons seized at Baghdad International Airport believed to be on its way to southern Kurdistan.
2 min read
13 November, 2014
The arms shipment was seized at Bahghdad airport [Getty]

An investigation was launched on Wednesday into a shipment of Russian weapons seized at Baghdad International Airport last week. The enquiry by Iraqi authorities is focusing on a businessman close to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, military sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The 40-ton shipment arrived by plane from the Czech Republic. It reportedly contained grenades, ammunition, and high-tech communication equipment. 

"The plane was seized while refuelling in Baghdad after being refused permission to land at Sulaimaniya airport in southern Kurdistan," a senior military official told al-Araby al-Jadeed. 

It was held, it has been reported, after the US notified Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of its contents. The plane's crew - who are understood to have told security officers the plane was carrying cigarettes - were arrested and released, but the shipment remains impounded, he added.


     Neither Baghdad nor the Kurdistan government ordered them, so they were probably for  Islamic State.

Initial investigations with the Czech embassy indicate the shipment may have been intended for a terrorist group or powerful militia.

"Neither Baghdad nor the Kurdistan regional government ordered them, so they were probably for the Islamic State group [IS] or a militia," said the senior military official.

"IS seems most likely, because it is believed to be trading petrol and large sums of money with Iranian, Turkish and Russian businessmen in exchange for weapons."

Rumours that the illicit cargo was intended for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], an Iraqi-Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan, have been denied.

'Too soon'

"Preliminary information shows the plane was connected to a businessman who had previously traded weapons for petrol with IS," Hakim al-Zamili, a member of parliament serving on the security and defence committee, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"It is too soon to know who is responsible, but it looks like terrorists and those collaborating with them."

Six men, including three prominent businessmen, have been arrested over the smuggling attempt, he said.

PIraqi parliamentarian Mohammad al-Jaftold al-Araby al-Jadeed: "There are prominent Iraqis benefiting from the spoils of war, working with any side they can profit from."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.