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Baku Became Hub For Weapon Smuggling Into Middle East

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Baku Became Hub For Weapon Smuggling Into Middle East

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In recent months and years, Azerbaijan’s capital – Baku appears to have become a hub for the transfer of weapons from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, EADaily reported. The article is based on older investigations and revelations, as well as on new open source information.

Silk Way Airlines, an Azerbaijani airline, has turned Baku into a hub for the transfer of arms from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. From the capital of Azerbaijan, it delivers Soviet-style weapons to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, from where they generally enter Syria.

Previously, a private airline, it delivered cargo directly from Eastern Europe under the guise of diplomatic flights. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Azerbaijan itself began to actively export weapons to conflict zones.

The initial report in Silk Way Airlines actions began with an investigative report by Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who lost her job in Bulgarian newspaper “Trud” following a report on the topic.

Dilyana, however, continued looking into the activities of Silk Way, as well as illegal sale and smuggling of weapons to the Middle East in her subsequent investigations.

In spite of the evidence, Silk Way airlines received a comment by Civil Aviation Administration (Republic of Bulgaria) that the flights were in order.

“With reference to recent articles in the media and particularly an article published at the Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia web site, stating that the operator, Silk Way Airlines from Azerbaijan has been involved in illegal transportation of weapons for terrorist organizations from/through Bulgarian territory, the Directorate General “Civil Aviation Administration” to the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Bulgaria would like to clarify the following:

All flights operated by Silk Way Airlines from/through the territory of Bulgaria, carrying special/military production on board, have been performed in accordance with all National and International regulations and legal provisions, with all respective permits, certificates and documents for transportation by air of such a type of sensitive cargo. Without any exceptions, Silk Way Airlines strictly adheres to all IATA and ICAO regulations for safe transportation of Dangerous Goods by air. The operator and the shipper of the cargo of each and every flight have been duly disclosed in a legal order, representing the origin, the route of the flight, as well as the consignor, consignee and the end user, by legal documents.

There is no room for tendentious speculations, that the cargo transported on board has been intended for known terrorist enclaves in Syria and other conflict zones in Central Asia and Africa. All flights have been operated under the strict control of the Directorate General “Civil Aviation Administration”, as well as under the control of a number of other National and International authorities responsible.”

SouthFront, too, carried out its own investigation in the flights of Silk Way, showing similar findings to those of Dilyana and EADaily.

EADaily observed flight activity in early November 2019, and it showed much of the same activity continuing without issue.

According to Flightradar24, the Silk Way Airlines cargo aircraft are still actively flying to Middle Eastern countries. In October and November, according to available data, they flew to Iraqi Basra and Kurdish Erbil. But the flights have changed, at least partially.

Thus, on November 5th, the Il-76TD cargo plane under registration number 4K-AZ40 made the flight Baku – Burgas – Baku, and on November 6th, Baku – Tuzla – Baku. On November 8th, it went to one of the countries of the Middle East (the portal gives only part of the flight route). But on November 11th, according to Flightradar24, the IL-76TD was definitely returning from Iraqi Basra to Baku.

Baku Became Hub For Weapon Smuggling Into Middle East

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At the same time, another Il-76TD of the Azerbaijani airline with registration number 4K-AZ41 made flights to Iraq on October 29th, November 7th, and on November 12th and delivered cargo to Kurdish Erbil.

Baku Became Hub For Weapon Smuggling Into Middle East

Click to see full-size image

The change in logistics for the delivery of goods to conflict zones through Baku may also be due to the fact that Azerbaijan itself is increasing its own arms supplies to conflict zones.

For example, in June 2017, the Ministry of Defense Industry of Azerbaijan announced the opening of a plant for the production of grenade launcher rounds at Sharg.

And at the 5th International Military-Technical Forum ARMY-2019, that took place in June 2019, in Moscow, the department announced that it would present a wide range of weapons for export – sniper rifles, assault rifles, pistols, assault machine guns, grenade launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, various types of ammunition, etc.

Today Silk Way Airlines is one of the fastest growing private airlines. And experts have repeatedly asked the question of how the company, which started in 2001 with two An-12 and Il-76 aircraft, was able to grow into a large freight carrier.

Silk Way Airlines and its subsidiary currently operate 10 IL-76s and 11 Boeing 747s.

Investigative reporters believe this is due to arms transfers, Washington’s support, and possibly ties to the ruling class.

According to OCCRP, since 2005, Silk Way Airlines began to receive Pentagon orders for the delivery of goods to Afghanistan. The total amount is $400 million.

On the US Federal Procurement website, you can find, for example, a $4 million contract with Evergreen International Airlines, which mentions Silk Way Airlines. Moreover, the US State Export-Import Bank issued a $420 million credit guarantee to the airline for the purchase of 3 Boeing 747 transport aircraft.

At the same time, Silk Way Airlines has become a monopoly in the transportation market in Azerbaijan.

It got to the point that her rival for military orders, the American Kalitta Air, complained about the airline to the US Department of Transportation that “Azerbaijan is not an open and competitive market for carriers from the United States if they don’t conclude a contract with Silk Way.” According to the Americans, the airline controls not only all air cargo in the country, but also all related services.

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