The Unites States Embassy in Sarajevo urged Bosnian politicians to stop exploiting unsubstantiated media reports about a planned military exercise with use of depleted uranium ammunition at a range near Banja Luka, northern Bosnia.
“Certain politicians continue to use a fabricated story about a so-called ‘NATO exercise’ to instigate fear among the citizens of BiH, despite our continued efforts to provide factual and timely information about the exercise. The U.S. Embassy strongly rejects all speculation and allegations about this exercise,” the Embassy said in a press release.
“None of the activities in this exercise would involve the use of depleted uranium”
“As we have said many times, as part of the continuing close security cooperation between BiH and the United States, the Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation and Maryland National Guard are currently working with the Ministry of Defense and AFBiH to make a recommendation to the Presidency for their approval on a bilateral exercise between the Maryland National Guard and the AFBiH that will take place in 2019. If agreement is reached, this activity would closely resemble previous exercises that have taken place around BiH and throughout the region through the State Partnership Program, including in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia. None of the activities in this exercise would involve the use of depleted uranium or combat ammunition. Exercises of this type use ammunition that has been modified for training purposes and is environmentally safe.”
First reports about a NATO exercise at Banja Luka appeared on local news websites a month ago. According to the reports, depleted uranium ammunition would be used at the Manjača range. No concrete evidence to support the claim was provided, however.
Depleted uranium ammunition was used in the 1995 air strikes campaign in Bosnia, during which the NATO aircraft pounded the Bosnian Serb forces around besieged Sarajevo and elsewhere in the country, in a bid to force the Bosnian Serb leadership to join peace talks, which led to the end of the Bosnian war.
“As always with such exercises, we are cooperating closely with appropriate institutions to determine the details of these activities, including meetings this week between officers from the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation and the Maryland National Guard and their BiH counterparts,” the U.S. Embassy said.
“This activity is part of the longstanding cooperation between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the partnership between the Maryland National Guard and AFBiH, which has benefited both BiH and the United States over the 16 years of its existence.”