05 March 2007

Remember those "Austrian" sniper rifles?

On the 13 February 2007, in a story in the Daily Telegraph, Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent claimed that "Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned."

Harding then went on to assert that "within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon" and that the "find is the latest in a series of discoveries that indicate that Teheran is providing support to Iraq's Shia insurgents."

Harding's argument goes that "The discovery of the sniper rifles will further encourage those in Washington who want to see Iran's uranium-enriching facilities destroyed before a nuclear weapon is produced."

Harding also claimed that "Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported." However, the previous day, there were no rifles on display when US forces presented "evidence" that weapons from Iran are being used in Iraq.

The story was picked up by the International Herald Tribune in its story also dated 13 February 2007 "Report: Austrian rifles supplied to Iran have found their way to Iraqi insurgents".

The IHT report differed somewhat from the Telegraph report in that it sought comments from the Austrian company concerned, Steyr Mannlicher GmbH : "Franz Holzschuh, Steyr's CEO, said the company had not officially been contacted by anyone to verify the serial numbers on the rifles. He said there was a possibility the weapons were reproductions and that there were "thousands" of these in circulation."

This, presumably prompted the Telegraph to follow up the story the following day: "We are not responsible for rifles, says Austria" Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 14/02/2007

"Franz Holzschuh, Steyr's chief executive, said the company had not been contacted by anyone officially to verify the serial numbers on the rifles. He said it was possibile that the weapons were copies."

Having heard nothing since then, I e-mailed the company on 28 February 2007:

"Gesendet: Mittwoch, 28. Februar 2007 13:41
An: Office Betreff: Rifles in Iraq?

Dear Sir,

I read with interest the news release by your company on your website ( http://www.steyr-mannlicher.com/index.php?id=248&L=1 ) in which you state "The serial numbers of the guns found in Iraq have so far not been forwarded to the producer for identification. In order to find out whether the weapons have been produced by STEYR MANNLICHER the production/serial numbers need to be checked. Only then will it be possible to clarify whether these are products originated in Austria."

I am a Blogger ( http://dailysketcher.blogspot.com/ ) and am writing a follow-up to this story. I would just like to ask your company if you have now received the serial numbers of the guns found in Iraq, and if so were they in fact produced by your company?

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer this mail.

Yours Sincerely,"

This morning, 05 March 2007 I received this response:

From: Reply
To: The Daily Sketch
Date: 05-mar-2007 11:46

Subject: Rifles in Iraq?

Sent by: steyr-mannlicher.com

Dear Sir,

thank you very much for your email.

At this time we does not have received any serial numbers of the
mentioned rifles.

Thank you very much in advance for your follow up story.

Best Regards,


Over 2 weeks later and the US have not sent the serial numbers. Does anyone else find this odd?

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