Friday, November 18, 2011



Note: Not AZ nor Mex, yet. Wonder if a NGO with a lot of cash could
get a few Manpads, not to mention small arms and munitions?

18 November 2011 Last updated at 08:36 ET
On the trail of Libya's missing missiles
By Karen Allen
BBC News, Libya

"Scud," he thunders, pointing at a large projectile mounted on a truck.
Colonel Mohammed Amer, a commander with one of the "revolutionary"
brigades that helped to topple Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, shows off his
war trophy at a military camp near Misrata.

He explains this was one of 13 Scuds that Gaddafi planned to use on
his people.

It is a crude, imprecise weapon capable of inflicting damage on a
target up to 300km (190 miles) away.

This one was seized from the desert in Bani Walid and brought east to
the city of Misrata, where thousands of people lost their lives
trying to defend the city between February and May.

But it is not the crude Scuds that are worrying the international
community: it's the proliferation of other weapons that have not yet
been secured.

Many types of weapons have been left unsecured after the end of
fighting in Libya
The interim authority, the National Transitional Council (NTC), has
been quick to identify some of the largest weapons sites, especially
where chemical weapons - including mustard gas - have been identified.

Even so we found artillery shells, ammunition and more lying
unsecured in abandoned warehouses in Tripoli. Now there are concerns
that other more deadly weapons are going astray.

For the past two weeks, we have been on the search for so called
Manpads - Man Portable Air Defence Systems - a new acronym in Libya's
war lexicon. These surface-to-air missiles, which are easy to use and
easy to hide, are the weapon of choice for groups like al-Qaeda, say
security experts.

We've seen warehouses turned into arsenals, trenches three metres
deep once stuffed with weapons, breathing apparatus for chemical
respirators, and AK47s everywhere - even children brandishing them.

Videos circulating on the internet during the early days of the eight-
month uprising show NTC "liberation fighters" or rebels, posing with
a portable surface-to-air missile for the cameras.

Seized from one of Colonel Gaddafi's packed arsenals, the missiles
portray a potent symbol of power, not just on the battlefield but in
civilian life.

Capable of disabling an aeroplane in a matter of seconds, portable
surface-to-air missiles were used in Kenya back in 2002, during a
failed attempt to bring an Israeli plane down.

Sense of urgency
Now that the guns are almost silent in Libya, there's a sense of
urgency to try to locate the missiles and launchers that may have
been looted.

The Americans, who have refused repeated requests to do interviews
with our BBC team in Libya, have been briefing widely on the issue

With no concrete evidence that Manpads are now safely behind lock and
key, and with a government still to be named, Libya is in a
precarious place. "

The official line sent in a text message is that "teams on the ground
have already disabled or destroyed... over 1,500 Manpads in Libya",
adding that they believe many more were destroyed during the Nato

But we have found the evidence on the ground hard to find.

Human Rights Watch identified surface-to-air missiles discarded at
weapons dumps during the final days of fighting. But a month on - and
despite NTC assurances that there are attempts at recovery - there is
still much confusion. "There are just a few thousand, not 20,000,"
insists Fawzi Abu Katif, the deputy defence minister, who concedes
that they have no clear idea how many of these weapons are in

Colonel Gaddafi is believed to have stockpiled up to 20,000 Manpads
back in the 1970s, but just how many were sold on to his allies in
the intervening years, no-one knows.

International anxiety
And so reports that missiles and ammunition are being smuggled across
the border from Tobruk into Egypt and on into Gaza are causing
ripples of anxiety throughout the international security community.

The president of neighbouring Niger, Rafini Briji, this week warned
that the conflict in Libya had created "very complicated situations
since the arms depots were opened and people from all quarters helped
themselves and took them in all directions".

A British official, speaking anonymously, admitted they feared there
were potentially "thousands" still in circulation.

Some weapons are being recovered and brought to giant arms dumps
The NTC forces have been keen to accommodate us. We've had
extraordinary access to weapons sites in both the capital and further
east and though we've seen vast quantities of heavy and light
weapons, not a single Manpad has been produced.

A well-placed source within the NTC security committee insists the
weapons exist and are safe, but are not yet centrally controlled. He
warns that the Manpad issue, risks being used to whip up fears,
manipulated and used as propaganda.

There is genuine concern that some of these weapons are straying
across borders, getting into foreign militants hands, but, he
wonders, how much is this threat being overstated by the
international community?

With no concrete evidence that Manpads are now safely behind lock and
key, and with a government still to be named, Libya is in a
precarious place.

The fog of uncertainty needs to be lifted by the authorities who, in
so many ways, have been quick to restore order. If not, many fear
Libya's new found freedoms, could be exploited.

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