Weapons for Syrian rebels, paid by the U.S., come mainly from Bulgaria. A Bulgarian company has concealed the purchase of 700 Russian-designed Konkurs missiles from Belarus to circumvent the restrictions on weapons trade with which US companies must comply. The American citizen, who was killed by a blast at the Anevo arms range in Bulgaria, is Francis Norvillo, 41, U.S. Navy veteran and an expert armorer, employed by a subcontractor company. This is revealed in an investigation of the well-known American investigative journalist Aram Roston, published on the site BuzzFeed. Roston relies on confidential sources and has published documents.

Soon after the incident in Anevo, the U.S. Embassy in Sofia released a statement revealing the name of the company contracted by the American government to buy and supply the weapons for the Syria operation – Purple Shovel. “When Purple Shovel was awarded those crucial contracts, according to a federal procurement database, the company had just six employees and annual revenue of less than 2 million US dollars”, BuzzFeed has further discovered.

According to the publication, “Purple Shovel’s big break came in December 2014, when it won two contracts totaling more than $50 million for the Syria program from the Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, which coordinates the activities of America’s most elite military units”. Documents and sources familiar with the procurement operation in Bulgaria further reveal that the supplies “included 12,640 armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenades, of a type called the PG-7VM, along with hundreds of shoulder-mounted launchers. Then there were 6,240 even longer-range anti-tank grenades called PG-9Vs, which are fired from launchers called SPG-9s”.

In turn, Purple Shovel contracted as primary procurement subcontractor Regulus Global, and the latter “arranged to buy the grenades from a Bulgarian firm, Algans Ltd”.

The second contract, for 23.5 million US dollars, was for training and equipment. According to BuzzFeed sources, SkyBridge Tactical was a subcontractor to Purple Shovel for this contract and SkyBridge Tactical hired Francis Norvillo. The American expert “was supposed to receive training meant to familiarize him with the rocket-propelled grenades so that he would be prepared to train American soldiers who would, in turn, train the Syrian rebels”. In order to do this, Algans Ltd rented the arms range in Anevo. The tragic incident happened when Francis Norvillo fired an obsolete grenade, manufactured in 1984.

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According to BuzzFeed, “Purple Shovel was also contracted to acquire 700 Russian-designed Konkurs missiles for the Syria mission”, but… “Bulgaria, the source for most of the weapons for the Syria operation, didn’t have any”, and Belarus, ruled by “President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin”, had “plenty” of them. Belarus is on a special U.S. blacklist of countries with bans or special restrictions. In order to circumvent the embargo, an unnamed Bulgarian company has purchased 700 Konkurs missiles from Belarus. The U.S. State Department has declined to comment for BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed reminds that so far the training program for the rebels has cost 500 million US dollars and is a total fiasco, the latter also admitted by U.S. officials. The death of the American expert is part of this fiasco and is caused by the attempt of Purple Shovel to sell to the U.S. government thousands of Soviet-made “rocket-propelled grenades that were considered unreliable because they were manufactured three decades ago”, the publication points out.


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