Romanians recover 64 stolen missile warheads

AP News
Posted: Jul 18, 2011 4:59 PM
Romanians recover 64 stolen missile warheads

Dozens of small, old rocket warheads stolen from a train carrying military equipment were found Monday stashed near a railway station in a village of Romania, authorities said.

When the theft was discovered over the weekend, authorities promised the 64 warheads posed no danger to the public because the warheads, or fuses, were being transported separately from the rockets.

The warheads were found intact in four boxes near the railway station in the village of Chitila, just north of Bucharest, Marius Militaru, a spokesman for the interior ministry, told Antena 3 broadcaster. He declined to provide further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

Bulgaria's Economy Ministry identified the warheads as belonging to 122mm (4.8-inch) diameter Grad rockets, which are typically fired from vehicle-mounted multiple-rocket launchers.

It said in a statement that the shipment from Romania to Bulgaria was part of a transfer of "nonfunctional components and parts" for reprocessing at the VMZ factory _ one of the Balkan nation's largest military factories _ in Sopot, central Bulgaria, where the components and parts were to be replaced and the warheads prepared for sale.

Romanian national police spokesman Florin Hulea also said the warheads posed no risk because they were not attached to rockets.

Romanian officials also tried to portray the Saturday theft as accidental.

Eugen Badalan, a member of the parliamentary defense committee, said the thieves "had no idea what they stole" when the broke into one of the eight cars carrying the weapons on the 27-car train.

Prosecutors were investigating whether scrap metal thieves could have been behind the theft.

Mediafax reported that railway workers noticed the seals on a carriage door were broken, and the door was not properly closed, when the train reached Giurgiu, a Danube port that borders Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian Defense Ministry confirmed in a press release that the recipient of the fuses was a Bulgarian company, not its armed forces. It said the Interior Ministry's Dangerous Weapons Control Service had issued a permit for the transport of the delivery.

The train was loaded on Friday and stopped under guard overnight in the central Romanian town of Brasov, about 166 kilometers (103 miles) north of Bucharest, according to transport police. After leaving Saturday, it stopped for one hour in the mountain resort of Predeal.


Associated Press Writer Veselein Toshkov contributed from Bulgaria