Firefighters in Argentina made a startling discovery after extinguishing a blaze in Palermo on Wednesday, stumbling across a number of 40-year-old weapons dating back to bloody violence of the 1970s.
In total at least 90 weapons of various forms – including rifles, bombs and grenades – were found. Some of them featured stamps and markings referring to the now defunct guerrilla organisation Montoneros, police sources said.
The chain of events began when a division of firefighters from a fire station in Recoleta were called to attend to a fire at a 15th-floor flat on Calle Salguero, a stone’s throw away from Alto Palermo Shopping Centre, at around 2.30pm.
Finding an empty flat ablaze, they quickly got to work. After quenching the flames, a few of the group began checking rooms to eliminate the potential risk of fire breaking out again.
It was then that the firefighters began making a series of unexpected discoveries. Dotted around the flat were at least eight rifles of different sizes on the wall together with cases for other long-range weapons.
The arsenal has not been fully catalogued yet, but according to police sources, there were almost 90 weapons of different types and sizes in total seized, including 70 short-range weapons and 19 rifles, two hand grenades and four mortar shells were found.
Along with the weapons, two hand grenades and four mortar shells were found, some of which bore inscriptions from the “José Sabino Navarro Military Factory” – one of terrorist group's clandestine weapon manufacturing sites.
After the discovery, the fire brigade immediately notified local prosecutors, who sent the Firearms Investigation Division of the City Police Force to intervene. When the investigators arrived, they began an operation to verify the weaponry and prepare a report.
“When we arrived at the site, we noticed there were six grenades, besides the firearms, and thus we proceeded to evacuate the whole building and part of the block to establish a perimeter,” said Superintendent Miguel García of the Buenos Aires City Police Force.
“Some of them are banned [weapons], for instance those firing shotgun cartridges and silencers,” he added.
García said the case is in the hands of Prosecutor Matías Vila. Investigators are assessing if the weapons are replicas with spurious inscriptions or whether they were actually manufactured in the 1970s.
According to police sources, the apartment's listed owner is 76-year-old Jorge Mochkovsky, what sat on the board of Sacoa SA in the 1990s. The company was founded in 1957 in Mar del Plata and a decade later launched an arcade chain which is widely known along the Atlantic Coast.
Police also want to speak to a relative of the flat's owner, a 53-year-old businessman who is no longer in the country, the sources added.
José Sabino Navarro, nicknamed 'el Negro,' was a Peronist activist born in Corrientes, who in the mid 1960s was involved in revolutionary activities and armed conflict. He died in 1971 in Córdoba.
Within the Montoneros, Navarro's name was used to refer to a faction of the organisation which had differences with its leadership.
As for sourcing and locating weapons, the terror group often held up military posts and armouries, or else they bought them. They also managed to make their own rifles and grenades at their own workshops, some of which were set up in secret inside factories.