Europe

Portuguese president speaks out over stolen weapons arsenal

The Tancos military base in Portugal Image copyright RTP
Image caption The burglary apparently took place at night in an area where CCTV had been broken for some time

Days after weapons and explosives were taken from a military warehouse in Portugal, the scale of the theft is becoming clear.

A Spanish website has revealed an extensive list of grenades, ammunition and explosives seized from the Tancos site, north-east of Lisbon.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called for a no-holds-barred investigation into the raid.

Links to arms thefts in other Nato states should be looked at, he added.

There was no mention of which other countries he had in mind.

The theft was discovered on 28 June and details were passed on to Portugal's Nato allies.

The burglary is thought to have taken place at night at a part of the security perimeter where closed-circuit cameras had been broken for over two years.

The Portuguese defence minister initially described the raid as "serious", but the size of the missing arsenal only emerged when El Español (in Spanish) published what it said was a list of the stolen armaments. Among the weapons taken were:

  • 1,450 9mm ammunition cartridges
  • 150 hand grenades
  • 44 anti-tank grenades
  • 18 tear gas grenades
  • 102 explosive charges
  • 264 pieces of plastic explosive

El Español said it had seen the list after it was handed to Spain's anti-terror forces.

President de Sousa said a far-reaching investigation should look into the "facts and responsibilities" and called for measures to be taken to prevent such a theft "of increasing seriousness" from happening again.

Centre-right opposition party leader Assunção Cristas said that after 64 deaths in forest fires last month there was a "crisis of authority and a crisis of leadership" in Portugal. She called for the defence minister and another minister to be fired.

Five military commanders have been suspended while an internal investigation takes place, the BBC's Lisbon correspondent reports.

There was no indication they were directly involved in the raid, chief of staff Gen Frederico Rovisco Duarte said on Sunday. However, their units were thought to be in charge of securing and monitoring the storage area.

Image copyright RTP
Image caption Military figures are said to be looking into whether the thieves acted on inside information

Shots were fired close to Tancos military base, which is home to an engineering regiment, late on Sunday night. No-one was hurt. The regiment's commander was one of the five individuals suspended.

Nato said it was aware of the theft but emphasised it had no involvement in the facility. "This is a matter for the Portuguese authorities and we count on them to investigate what happened," an official told the BBC.

Senior military figures in Portugal were reportedly investigating whether the thieves had acted on inside information. The armed forces' top brass were due to meet on Monday to discuss the case.

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