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Probe of Stolen Military Weapons Turns Up No Organized Ring Working With Terrorists;

October 18, 1997

Probe of Stolen Military Weapons Turns Up No Organized Ring Working With Terrorists; Investigator Says Greed Motivated 5 Thieving MarinesBy EMERY P. DALESIO

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) _ Marines accused of stealing weapons from Camp Lejeune were motivated by money but apparently were not an organized ring dealing with terrorists, authorities said Friday.

``There are no groups, no connections, no conspiracies that we’ve been able to determine,″ said Neill Robins, head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The five Marines still in custody Friday are suspected of hiding extra explosives from training exercises and seeking out buyers. Federal agents acting as middlemen bought the stolen explosives and then sold them to gun enthusiasts searching for greater firepower.

The Marines appeared to be seeking cash as a reward for taking advantage of sloppy inventory controls, said Col. Joe Yannessa, head of base security.

Fourteen people suspected of trafficking military explosives were arrested Thursday. Six of the suspects were Marines, although one was released and returned to his unit.

The arrests were part of an ongoing 18-month investigation dubbed ``Operation Longfuse″ into the theft of military weapons, including rocket launchers, machine guns, mines, mortars and grenades. Much of the ordnance was stolen from Camp Lejeune, a Marine base in eastern North Carolina.

The sting began after military officials approached the NCIS with concerns over missing weapons. Authorities said undercover agents were shown weapons for sale and that automatic weapons and explosives were illegally made and distributed.

Charges were pending against the Marines. The eight civilians _ all from North Carolina _ were charged with a variety of federal crimes for allegedly manufacturing and selling military explosives and hardware.

The civilians were ``people that are gun crazies,″ Robins said. Like the Marines, authorities say, they acted independently of each other.

All the C-4 plastic explosives, detonation cords, hand grenades and small arms ammunition taken from Camp Lejeune appears to have been recovered, Robins said.

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