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Curbing Smuggling of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Central Asia

Curbing Smuggling of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Central Asia

Approximately 80 customs and border officials from Central Asia are participating in a U.S.-sponsored program in Texas to learn state-of-the-art methods for detecting nuclear, chemical and biological weapons components that could be smuggled across borders. Source: Washington File (EUR311). U.S. Department of State. Washington D.C., August 22, 2001.

The three-week training session will be taught by American customs and border patrol officers and will include instruction in uncovering hidden compartments in vehicles, identifying false documents and analyzing suspicious behavior, and practice using x-ray equipment, fiber-optic scopes and advanced computer technologies.

Participants are from outposts in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan that border China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and ports on the Caspian Sea.

Since 1998, according to the U.S. Customs Service, foreign customs officers trained through this program have made eight significant seizures, including 10 radioactive lead containers concealed in a scrap metal truck traveling from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, and 10 grams of highly enriched Uranium-235 concealed in an air compressor in a car traveling from Romania to Bulgaria.

Following is the text of the release with more details: (begin text)

U.S. Customs Service, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, August 21, 2001

U.S. Customs Kicks off training to help former Soviet republics combat spread of Weapons of Mass destruction

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Customs Service today announced the launch of a three-week training session in Hidalgo, Texas, designed to help customs and border officials from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan combat the cross-border smuggling of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons components.

During the training session, which will extend through September 8, U.S. Customs officials from the Hidalgo Port of Entry and from the Office of International Affairs at Customs headquarters will provide International Border Interdiction Training (IBIT) to the foreign participants in classrooms and in the field.

"There are few missions more critical to U.S. Customs than helping our foreign counterparts combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction," said Acting U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Charles Winwood. "U.S. Customs counter-proliferation training programs have helped foreign authorities make numerous weapons-related seizures in recent years. We are confident this training will yield similar results."

The IBIT training in Hidalgo is being provided by U.S. Customs and U.S. Border Patrol officials under the auspices of the Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) program. Funded by the U.S. State Department, the EXBS program is a joint effort by the Departments of State, Commerce, Defense and Energy, in conjunction with U.S. Customs, to provide non-proliferation training and equipment to 28 nations, most of them in the former Soviet Bloc.

The IBIT training provided by U.S. Customs officers will include instruction in counter-terrorism techniques, the detection of hidden compartments in cargo and passenger vehicles, the use of high-tech detection technology, the selection of high-risk vehicles and passengers, and passenger interviewing and behavioral analysis techniques.

U.S. Customs inspectors will highlight the use of state-of-the-art detection technologies, including X-Ray equipment, density measuring units, fiber-optic scopes, and advanced computer technologies. U.S. Customs inspectors will also demonstrate "low tech" technologies and equipment used to detect weapons-related contraband at international borders.

U.S. Border Patrol officials will provide training in tactical radio communications, officer safety, patrol techniques, sensor placement, and false document identification.

Approximately 80 foreign officials are scheduled to participate in the IBIT training session. The officers have been selected from the ranks of supervisors and line officials who work in outposts in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan that border China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and ports on the Caspian Sea.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, there has been a substantial increase in the threat of trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related components. U.S. Customs has been at the forefront of U.S. government efforts to counter this threat.

Through all of its international non-proliferation programs, U.S. Customs has provided training to more than 2,600 foreign customs and border officers. U.S. Customs has also delivered millions of dollars worth of interdiction and detection equipment to officers in these nations.

Customs international non-proliferation programs have achieved encouraging results. Since 1998, there have been eight significant seizures by foreign customs or police agencies attributed to U.S. Customs non-proliferation training. Two recent seizures are exemplary:

-- In March 2000, authorities at the Gisht Kuprik border crossing in Uzbekistan seized 10 radioactive lead containers concealed in scrap metal in a truck entering from Kazakhstan. The Iranian driver of the truck and his radioactive cargo were bound for Pakistan. Uzbekistan authorities found the radioactive material after their portable radiation "pagers" alerted as the truck entered the customs post. The radiation pagers had been provided to Uzbekistan authorities by the U.S. Customs Service.

-- In May 1999, customs officials at the Ruse border crossing in Bulgaria discovered 10 grams of highly enriched U-235 (uranium) inside a lead "pig" concealed in an air compressor. The compressor was hidden in the trunk of a car. The Bulgarian customs officer who found the U-235 had received counter-proliferation training from the U.S. Customs Service just prior to the seizure. His supervisor, who was also involved in the seizure, had been trained by U.S. Customs officers in an advanced counter-proliferation course in Washington State. Furthermore, the Bulgarian laboratory director who examined and identified the materials had received technical training from the U.S. Customs Service.

In the months following completion of the IBIT session in Hidalgo, U.S. Customs Service officials and officials from other U.S. agencies plan to conduct follow-up training for the foreign officers who participated in the IBIT exercise. This training would be held in the foreign officers' home countries and would be designed to help them develop country-specific techniques using the information and equipment gleaned from the IBIT exercise.

(end text)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).