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Cablegate: Serbia: Munitions Plant Explosion Kills Seven

VZCZCXRO8986
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHBW #1002 2471413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041412Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS BELGRADE 001002

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (P. PETERSON)
NEA/I
SCA/A

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV MARR PREL IZ AF SR
SUBJECT: SERBIA: MUNITIONS PLANT EXPLOSION KILLS SEVEN

REF: IIR 6 904 0141 09; IIR 6 904 0149 09

Summary
-------

1. (U) A September 3 explosion at a Serbian munitions factory killed seven. It is not yet known whether the explosion affected the portion of the factory that produces military munitions, including supplies for Iraq and Afghanistan. End Summary.


Explosion Rocks Plant
---------------------

2. (U) Late on September 3 four explosions tore through the underground ammunition production facilities of the "Prvi Partizan" ammunition factory in Uzice,
200 kilometers west of Belgrade. Seven workers (six women and one man) were killed by toxic fumes and thirteen were injured; according to press reports, none of the thirteen has life-threatening injuries. Local authorities and the national government declared September 5 a day of mourning for the victims.

3. (U) Local authorities and Ministry of Interior Protection and Rescue assets, with the support of other municipal firefighting brigades of the Zlatiborski
Okrug, brought the resulting fire under control and prevented its spread to the nearby munitions storage warehouse. Both Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic and Assistant Minister Predrag Maric visited Uzice during the night and expressed
their condolences to the families of those affected. Minister of Defense Dragan Sutanovac also toured the plant on September 4. An investigation into the cause of the explosion, which occurred in the shell filling area of the factory,
is ongoing. Our contacts tell us that it is not yet known whether the Ministry of Defense will participate in the investigation. City officials declined disaster assistance when contacted by USAID.

4. (SBU) Authorities have not yet announced which production line was the site of the explosion. Serbian industrialist Zoran Drakulic, who owns a plant that supplies raw materials to "Prvi Partizan," told the Charge on September 4 that he understood that the blast took place in the part of the factory that makes
ammunition for civilian use.

Ammunition for Iraq and Afghanistan
-----------------------------------

5. (U) "Prvi Partizan" has been in operation for 90 years and is the largest ammunition factory in the region. The factory employs 600-700 workers working around the clock in three shifts to produce a wide range of ammunition for the military, police, sport and hunting. General Manager Dobrosav Andric told the press that the production facilities where the explosions occurred were completely renovated two weeks ago and that he could not imagine what could have caused the tragedy.

6. (SBU) "Prvi Partizan" is a subcontractor for ammunition supplies to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was visited by a EUCOM team in May (refs). We have asked the Ministry of Defense and GM Andric for information about the impact of the explosion on the plant's ability to fulfill its orders but have not yet received a reply.

Comment
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7. (SBU) The explosion was both a human tragedy and a blow to Serbia's efforts to tout its arms industry internationally. End Comment.
BRUSH

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