Saturday, December 01, 2007

Heavy Artillery in the Banlieue

According to an article in Le Monde the Parisian suburbs are being stocked with rifles and other heavy artillery, provenance: the Balkans. My version of the article has been abridged:

A coded message has to be decrypted and on November 13, the presiding judge of the 13th chamber of the higher court of Bobigny in Seine-Saint-Denis, Jean-Dominique Launay, is going about it with infinite patience.

- "What is 5 heads"
- "That means 500 euros."
- "The letter K refers to a Kalashnikov?"
- "Yes, but it can also mean calibre."
- "You ask him for two Croatian suits. "What does that mean?
- "False papers," sighs Ramiz Tursunovic before the bench.

For four days, Mr. Launay reviewed pages and pages of tapped telephone conversations that led to the arrest in France, in three stages, from 2003 - 2005, of 15 men and one woman from the Balkans, suspected of having supplied an arms trafficking ring in the Parisian suburbs. The deputy prosecutor Camille Palluel considers the trial to have been exemplary. Exemplary because rare. "For once you have to become familiar with supply networks and the movement of these weapons," she stressed to the judges. Weapons of war that are found in the milieu of gangsters but also, more and more frequently, in the suburbs. And the former Yugoslavia has today become one of the main supply centers.

At Bobigny, the principal defendant, Radomic Micic, 42, alias Mitza, absent from the trial, got five years and a fine of 75,000 euros. (...) Suspected of being the main leader of the network, he possessed, in a little village called Buverchy in the department of Somme, a "repair shop" for weapons that served the region of Ile-de France. Machine gun pistols, "Scorpios", automatics, Kalashnikovs, and even explosives, traveled from the Balkans to Paris, in passenger buses, concealed in specially designed hiding places ("caches aménagées"). "For use by the residents of Seine-Saint-Denis," the investigators point out. Present at the trial were the brothers Tusurnovic, Ramiz and Zarif, then under judicial surveillance, who disappeared during deliberations. Convicted to four years and two years, the two Bosnians are now at large. (...)

The presence of weapons in the suburbs is not new, but it is more and more troubling for the police. And the mayors. "As recently as November 11, there was a fight, an act of revenge between gangs over a drug problem," says Gilbert Roger, the socialist mayor of Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis). "The worst thing is that they themselves did the clean-up: no trace of cartridge cases or bullets, even though we know that a 9 mm was used, since one injured person was taken to the hospital. And that's how we learned about it, the police were called. Otherwise no one would have known." (...)

Called to stop a fight between gangs on October 30, at Neuilly-Plaisance, also in Seine-Saint-Denis, the police were alarmed to find a 9 mm pistol and high calibre cartridge cases lying on the ground. A first in that neighborhood, according to investigators.

The article then cites these statistics: In 2006, 5,004 weapons, 192,560 munitions and 292 explosive devices (as opposed to 177 in 2005) were seized. It points out that not all of these can be for those "inveterate collectors" who stockpile war weapons. Some must be destined for arms and drug traffickers. And in July, customs agents in Rouen seized 52 complete weapons, 80 kilograms of munitions and 177 parts for rifles, carbines, and pistols in the possession of a disbarred lawyer from Seine-Maritime. He was buying and reselling weapons via merchants on the Internet.

In the suburbs, drugs are still the inseparable ally of arms trafficking. "Whenever there is a drug operation, it is more and more common to find weapons, even Kalashnikovs," concedes Philippe Veroni, chief of the Central Office against Organized Crime (OCLO). The youths are armed as a way of defending themselves against being cheated during drug transactions. "We know that the weapons come from the Balkans, but this isn't Chicago, even if there are more and more weapons in the suburbs." In the dangerous neighborhoods, this proliferation is done by word of mouth, in small doses, and escapes the attention of the police. The traffic is "parceled out", hence the difficulty in locating the sources. "One must be modest," Mr. Veroni admits.

Image of an AK-47 from Gun Directory

Note: A reminder that Seine-Saint-Denis has become one of the most notorious suburbs surrounding Paris. It was there that the three weeks of rioting began in November of 2005. Another reminder that the most recent riots last week in Val d'Oise involved extensive use of firearms, much more so than in 2005.

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At December 01, 2007 2:10 PM, Anonymous dauphin_b612 said...

This brings to mind the idiocy of having no more controls at the borders, so that anyone or anything can come in. The last time I drove to San Remo from Menton, it was a shock to see the abandoned border station and customs. I really did not care about the ease of driving back and forth, but was particularly concerned about what could be coming from the Balkans and elsewhere via Italy. Those stations must be reinstituted. Switzerland was crazy to agree to this European "norm".


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