By Elias Hazou
A NUMBER of Cypriot-registered pickup trucks may have unintentionally ended up in the hands of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, the Cyprus Intelligence Service (KYP) has said.
KYP commander Andreas Pentaras told the state broadcaster that a small number – he did not specify – of the vehicles, also known as double cabins, crossed over to the north, shipped to Turkey and then across the border to Syria.
Authorities launched an investigation after online videos of pickup trucks in Syria sporting Cypriot registration plates and with machine guns mounted in the beds caused an embarrassment.
Various persons were questioned, but the evidence gathered was not sufficient to bring charges against them, Pentaras said.
It’s understood the whole set-up was about profit; it appears there was no organised operation to supply fighters in Syria with Cypriot trucks, despite the fact some of the vehicles ended up there.
Syrian rebels or their associates would not go to the trouble of coming here to shop for vehicles when they could make their purchases instead in neighbouring countries, sources told the Cyprus Mail.
The vehicles were bought second-hand from their Cypriot owners, then driven to the north via the checkpoints and sold at a higher price. From there they were smuggled into Turkey and ended up in Syria.
When questioned by Cypriot authorities, some of the persons buying the trucks in the government-controlled areas claimed that their vehicles had been stolen.
The reports of suspicious pickup purchases in Cyprus are not new, and date back to summer of 2013.
In July 2013 a police source at a main checkpoint told the Mail that they had observed an increasing number of double cabins crossing north but not returning to the government-controlled areas.