A young Scots woman is preventing terrorists from getting their hands on lethal weapons.

Steph Barnwell from Glasgow plays a crucial role in protecting pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers from being used by the wrong people.

The 24-year-old leads a team helping the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) officially register a massive stockpile of over 60,000 arms.

The ammunition manufactured in Bosnia was used by terrorists for the Paris attacks in 2015, while the gunman who killed four people in November’s Vienna attack also used an automatic rifle from former-Yugoslavia.

Now Steph's HALO Trust task force aims to tighten security around the Bosnian military’s massive arsenal and is funded by the UK Government and other donors, reports Glasgow Live.

Steph said: “We are helping the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina to build a digital stockpile to stop weapons falling into the wrong hands. We have registered approximately 60,000 pieces of small arms and have catalogued over 250 different types of weapons. That ranges from pistols to AK-47s, M-16s, up to huge mortars and two-person carry items that are fixed to vehicles.

Steph Barnwell leads a team helping the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) officially register a massive stockpile of over 60,000 arms.
Steph Barnwell leads a team helping the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) officially register a massive stockpile of over 60,000 arms.

“It’s a burden for the Bosnian army to manage that stockpile given the country’s relatively small number of soldiers. It creates an environment where weapons could go missing, as it’s difficult to keep track of what you have.

“Our registration database will allow the armed forces to keep a digital record that cannot be edited, it cannot be falsified.”

he added: “This will help key partners better manage their weapons stockpiles. This is crucial to increasing civilian safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Balkans, and across Europe. The ammunition used for the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks in Paris were originally manufactured in Bosnia. The weapon used in November’s Vienna attack was essentially a Balkan made AK-47.

“So, there are real-life implications of what we are attempting to stop. There’s no direct evidence that any of these weapons have ended up in the UK, but this database helps eliminate that threat.”

Steph leads a team of six Bosnians working with the Balkan country’s army to catalogue weapons on special marking machines developed by Sheffield firm Pryor Marking Technology.

The work is funded by the UK, Germany, Norway and the UN agency UNSCAR and coordinated by EUFOR Mission (Operation Althea), the European Union ’s military deployment working to help the Bosnia and Herzegovina government improve security and stability.he added: “This will help key partners better manage their weapons stockpiles.

"This is crucial to increasing civilian safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Balkans, and across Europe.

"The ammunition used for the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks in Paris were originally manufactured in Bosnia. The weapon used in November’s Vienna attack was essentially a Balkan made AK-47.

“So, there are real-life implications of what we are attempting to stop. There’s no direct evidence that any of these weapons have ended up in the UK, but this database helps eliminate that threat.”

Steph leads a team of six Bosnians working with the Balkan country’s army to catalogue weapons on special marking machines developed by Sheffield firm Pryor Marking Technology.

The work is funded by the UK, Germany, Norway and the UN agency UNSCAR and coordinated by EUFOR Mission (Operation Althea), the European Union ’s military deployment working to help the Bosnia and Herzegovina government improve security and stability.

HALO has received £108,000 over the past two years for weapons marking and registration through the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and Defence Engagement Provision (DEP).

Steph admitted it took her a while to get used to being surrounded by weapons.

Steph said: “I’ve gone from only ever seeing the odd gun at airports or on the news, to working in warehouses with crates full of them.

“I remember the first time I saw these huge crates full of machine guns. It was completely surreal. It seems so alien for most Scots to hold a gun. It was not a job requirement, but I decided to visit a firing range to give me some confidence that I could handle the weapons safely.

“The kickback you get from firing a gun and how loud the sound was, was very much a shock. It now almost feels normal for me now to be surrounded by hundreds of guns. I’ve slowly got more comfortable with it.”

The HALO Trust’s work will make it harder for criminals and terrorists to get their hands on weapons.

Steph Barnwell looking at Bosnian weapon stocks

Paris terrorists, brother Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, had amassed a €25,000 arsenal, including three Kalashnikovs, a Skorpion submachine gun, grenades and a rocket launcher.

The bullets used for the 2015 attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had been manufactured by a state-owned factory on the outskirts of Sarajevo in 1986.

Steph says that the Bosnian authorities are determined to tackle the problem.

She said: “This project was started in 2017 and we have had nothing but support from all parts of the Bosnia and Herzegovina government. They are committed to improving safety and security both in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and more widely across Europe.

“A lot of these items have just been sitting in storage in warehouses since the war in the 1990s and our work is tightening up security around these huge stockpiles. HALO’s work allows them to have an itemised catalogue of exactly what weapons they have, where it is, what condition it is in.

“They will be able to search our database and say ‘Okay, we have this many M-16s that are in serviceable order, this many that need repaired, this many that don’t work any more’ and then they’ll be able to make informed decisions about what they keep and what they destroy.

“There is no direct evidence that any of these weapons have ended up in the UK, but as Paris and Vienna have shown, the threat is always there. I’m proud to be playing a part eliminating that threat by helping Bosnia and Herzegovina get on top of the problem and make streets everywhere safer.”

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Minister Wendy Morton said: “We are proud to be funding Steph’s work with The HALO Trust to stop weapons falling into the wrong hands.

“This is a wonderful example of how the UK Government is working with Scottish aid workers and NGOs to be a force for good in the world.

“Our Ambassador to Sarajevo, Matt Field, met recently with HALO’s CEO James Cowan, to discuss how we can provide ongoing support through the UK’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.”