Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crash in Afghanistan Shows US Double-standard in Dealing with Weapons Smugglers

October 13, 2010 -- Crash in Afghanistan shows US double-standard in dealing with weapons smugglers

The crash of a Transafrik International Hercules L-100 (C-130 military designation) cargo plane, tail number 5X-TUC, while flying from the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan to Kabul, killing all 8 crew aboard, points to the double standard of the United States in contracting military air services to companies linked to arms smuggling.

The crew of the Transafrik aircraft consisted of six Philippines nationals and one crewman each from Kenya and India. The plane was flying cargo for National Air Cargo or Orchard Park, New York. Transafrik is a South African company registered in Angola. One of the dead was an employee of National Air Cargo. The cargo of the plane was described as "general repair parts."

Currently, the United States is trying to extradite Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout from Thailand to the United States to face charges that he tried to sell weapons to Colombian FARC rebels who were actually undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. In the past, Bout's various airlines had provided services for parties ranging from the U.S., Taliban, and Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, to the UN in Africa, and Britain in Iraq.

Bout smuggled weapons for various rebel groups in Africa but an examination of Transafrik shows that it, also, engaged in arms trafficking in Africa, as well as diamond smuggling and providing the CIA with corporate cover on the island of Sao Tome.

Transafrik and its owner were described in the editor's book. "Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999": ". . . increased satellite traffic beamed to and from Africa was one reason behind American interest in establishing a communications monitoring presence on Sao Tome. The VOA station, itself, comprised various antennae (including four 100 kilowatt short wave and one 600 kilowatt medium wave transmitters), a two-story operations building, a huge satellite dish, and an independent power plant. The VOA personnel were housed in an armed-guarded compound operated by Christian Hellinger, a shadowy West German-South African businessman whose company, Transafrik, was known for everything from diamond mining to arms trafficking. Hellinger also reportedly provided various support 'services' to the American oil company Chevron, which maintains significant operations in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda. These services apparently included providing Angola with mercenaries to combat secessionist forces that operate in the small but resource-rich enclave . . .

On December 26, 1998, a U.N. C-130 Hercules carrying members of the U.N. military observer mission crashed in an area near the UNITA’s former capital of Huambo. The area was the scene of heavy fighting between Angola’s army and Savimbi’s forces. The C 130 had been chartered by the U.N. from none other than Christian Hellinger’s Sao Tome based Transafrik. Interestingly, TransAfrik acquired five C-130 Hercules in mid-1998 from Southern Air Transport, the former proprietary airline of the CIA. On January 2, 1999, UNITA brought down another Transafrik U.N. chartered C 130 after it took off from Huambo. At the same time, the UNITA pressure on Angolan troops was significant enough to prompt Luanda to withdraw one mechanized battalion from the Congo front."

According to the May 17, 1986 Guardian, Hellinger operated a Luanda-based office for the diamond company Intraco during Angola's bloody civil war. Intraco was actually a subsidiary of Caterpillar. Hellinger also represented International Trading and Mining (ITM), based in Luxembourg, Hellinger brought cheap Filipino laborers into Angola and actually served as the Philippines's honorary consul in Luanda. In 1986, Hellinger sent a letter to President Ronald Reagan asking him to cease U.S. support for the UNITA "freedom fighter" rebels battling Angola's Marxist government.

UNITA was also backed by South Africa, however, its largely Jewish-owned diamond businesses, such as DeBeers, and their colleagues in Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, and Antwerp also wanted access to Angola's diamond mines that were under control of the central government in Luanda. One of the chief lobbyists for UNITA in Washington was Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist who also worked for the South African government's propaganda apparatus in the United States.

Hellinger managed to cut a deal with his partner, the Cypriot-Zambian, Andrew Sardanis, and Angola's state-owned Endiama diamond company that saw Angolan diamonds sold directly to Jewish-owned diamond houses in Antwerp, thus by-passing DeBeers's virtual diamond monopoly in Africa.

More recently, Transafrik has been flying "humanitarian" missions for the UN in Congo, with its planes seen on runways in Bunia, Kinshasa, and at other Congolese airports. Some of Transafrik's "humanitarian" work was formerly performed by Viktor Bout's airlines. However, in the world of U.S. intelligence, Russian contractors are vetoed in order to eliminate the competition, while former CIA South African apartheid-era intelligence friends are welcomed with open arms, even in combat zones as far away as Afghanistan.

Pilots for Transafrik, the major hub for which is Luanda, Angola, have trained alongside pilots for Ariana Afghan Airlines in Brussels. Transafrik has also worked with the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in operations in Africa, particularly in Kenya and Sudan.

The continued U.S. alliance with ex-apartheid military and intelligence elements baffles black Africans who expected a change in U.S. policy with the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama.

Source: WMR/

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