Turned-in weapons find their way into the furnace in Bosnia
ZENICA, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Flames spewed out of the Zenica steel factory furnace as the door opened. The steel mill operator moved the spoonful of weapons and ammunition magazines into its mouth, paused a second, and turned it upside down.
The blackened spoon came out empty. The 1,500 degrees Celsius — or more than 2,700 F — flames swallowed the fruits of Operation Active Harvest that Turkish Stabilization Force troops in Multinational Division North collected in two months.
Capt. Yasar Cevdet, commander of 3rd Mechanical Company of the Turkish Battalion, was one of the soldiers who went door to door, asking people if they had any weapons left over from the war to turn them in.
“I feel it is important to collect the weapons, because that type of weapons are just for soldiers, not civilian people, not kids, not old people,” he said.
Although SFOR troops, local militaries and police collect the weapons year round, several times a year different SFOR units go on the hunt for them.
They organize informational campaigns before heading to local communities so people interested in getting rid of weapons know when the peacekeepers will be in their area.
American soldiers with Task Force Bluesteel stationed at Eagle Base and Camp Connor started another Harvest on Monday in areas they patrol.
While troops know the collected weapons are destroyed, most do not know they go down in flames.
Before placing the weapons in a storage room controlled by SFOR at a Bosnian military camp Turkish Capt. Ziya Kilic and his Explosive Ordinance Detachment removed the charges that will be destroyed separately.
Before the Bosnian war started in 1991, Zenica steel mill was one of the largest factories of its kind in the world, employing some 25,000 workers, said Lt. Col. Michael Evans, the U.S. liaison to the Turkish Battalion in Zenica.
It is just a shell of that today with some 10 percent of those workers putting out 20 percent of the pre-war production.
Steel plates cover the holes in the elevated walkway covered with dust in this brick building where corroded frames are the only remains of the blown-out windows.
Piles of scrap metal lying around the building surrounded by a railroad web with old railcars frozen in time and paint flakes on rusted metal surfaces give the factory complex a haunted, movie aura.
SFOR takes its collection there three to four times a year and pays about $100 a ton to have it destroyed.
Some eight hours after the weapons were fed into the furnace, steel poured out of an opening to be forged into future construction material.
Weapons the Turkish Battalion collected through Operation Active Harvest from Dec. 17 to Jan. 26:7 rifles47 light machine guns4 pistols3 shotguns12 anti-tank guns9 rocket launchers20,399 small-arms ammunition rounds104 20 mm to 76 mm rounds4 rounds of ammunition over 76 mm3 mortar rounds13 anti-tank mines24 anti-personnel mines509 hand grenades45 rifle grenades2 kilograms of TNT234 fuses2.05 kilograms of gunpowder10 rocket engines158 magazines