US funds hunt for Libyan missiles

2011-06-17 22:08

Washington - The US is paying two European mine-clearing groups nearly $1m to hunt and dispose of loose anti-aircraft missiles that could make their way from Libyan battlefields to terror groups.

The hiring of weapons demolition experts hardly dampens concerns about anti-aircraft missiles still in the hands of the Gaddafi regime's military, which amassed nearly 20 000 of the weapons before the popular uprising started in March.

The state department's hiring of British and Swiss weapons demolition teams in Libya to search for missiles, mines and other deadly munitions was prodded by fears that terrorists could use scavenged man-portable air defense systems, known as Manpads.

The action came after American and allied authorities made it clear to Libyan opposition figures that their cooperation on the missile launchers would be a factor in future assistance, said US and United Nations officials familiar with the discussions.

"From the US point of view, it was an issue of paramount importance," said Justin Baker, officer-in-charge of the UN Mine Action Service, which is overseeing the weapons disposal effort in Libya.

"The Libyans seemed to get the big picture of what was necessary to present a credible international face."

The move has no effect on the massive numbers of mostly Russian-built anti-aircraft launchers and missiles still in the hands of Muammar Gaddfi's forces.

While some shoulder-held and truck-mounted launchers were pillaged by rebel forces when they seized Libyan ammunition stocks, the vast majority are still held by the regime.

"I can't imagine the US can do anything about Gaddafi's inventory until they defeat him or negotiate his exit," said Matthew Schroeder, an arms expert with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

"But even without that, securing any Manpads loose in Libya is a good thing."


The Obama administration listed the nearly $1m anti-Manpads effort this week in a report to Congress defending the legality of its intervention in Libya.

The report included classified documents detailing a "threat assessment of Manpads, ballistic missiles and chemical weapons in Libya".

Most US warplanes have electronic evasion systems and can fly above the range of the missiles, but most passenger jets are vulnerable.

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks from officials in Algeria and Chad, and recently from Russian media, that several anti-aircraft missiles and launchers looted from Libyan government caches have already wound their way to the North African terror group, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

American officials have yet to confirm any of the reports.

Officials with the two firms hired by the state department, the British-based Mines Advisory Group and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, said almost all of the Libyan weapons depots they surveyed in recent weeks showed clear signs of looting.

Libyan opposition forces took almost any useful weapon from Gadhafi regime stocks in the opening weeks of the conflict, and search teams have found few inventory documents, so it is impossible to trace which are missing and whether any were sold to terrorists or criminal gangs.

"The ammo dumps we've seen are either partially destroyed or picked clean," said Alexander Griffiths, director of operations for the Swiss group, which now has 35 disposal experts working in rebel territory under a $470 000 US grant.

"We haven't seen Manpads so far and my guess is we won't see many because they're such a high-value item. They would be the first items to go."

The British mine disposal group located and destroyed two of the portable missile systems near the northeastern Libyan opposition-controlled town of Ajdabiya last week, spokesperson Kate Wiggans said.

The group also found two other stray anti-aircraft missiles in May and destroyed them. All four were SA-7s, Russian-made portable missiles that date to the 1970s.

Experts say many Libyan Manpads are probably of similar vintage and some may be too decayed to use.

Hot zones

The Mines Advisory Group has three workers in Libya but plans to expand to at least 20, operating with $486 000 in state department funding and $290 000 in British government aid, Wiggans said.

Both she and Griffiths said that their demolition experts were taking care to avoid hot battle zones, coordinating with UN officials overseeing relief efforts in opposition-held turf.

US officials would not say whether the funding would continue beyond the end of the year.

The US has been the lead player in efforts to round up and destroy stray missiles, hiring contractors like the two European firms to scour battlefields and, in some cases, discreetly paying armed governments like Yemen to turn over missile stocks.

The US programs have destroyed 32 500 missile systems in 30 countries since 2003, but officials say thousands more still pose a hazard among the estimated 1 million manufactured since the late 1960s.

Passenger flights have never been targeted inside the U.S. Nearly a dozen lethal strikes have brought down passenger and cargo planes over the past decade in Africa and Asia.

  • Datbrotherfromthestates - 2011-06-17 22:57

    this illegal war is getting worse and worse for nato and america knows it. now let me give you folks the truth and the facts. the weapons that america is "now" supposedly looking for are in the hands of the AL-QAEDA TERRORIST who america wants the world to think that they are REBELS! for the past four months america and the nato forces who have sided witht these AL-QAEDA terrorist has known that the so called rebels have been looting the ammo depost in Lybia and GIVING them to their al-qaeda brothers. not only does AL-QAEDA have possesion of weapons from lybia but so does (and I am not making this up) HEZBOLLAH and HAMAS! the nato countries have KNOWN about this for MONTHS and has kept it under wraps. the american media over here flat out REFUSED to report on this for the past four months. now that the nato forces can no longer hide these facts they want to pretend as if they have known nothing about the al-qaeda rebels looting gadaffi's weapons depost and simply HANDING then over to their terrorist brothers. the truth is slowly coming to light on this whole scheme which was hatched by france and england to implement regime change in Lybia.this was never about democracy. the nato forces knew it then when they decided to bomb gadaffi,and they certainly know it now because all of his stolen weapons are now in the hands of AL-QAEDA,HEZBOLLAH AND HAMAS! ENDGAME FOR NATO!

      OZNOB - 2011-06-17 23:42

      SAME THING HAPPENED in afghanistan after the russians pulled all these stinger missiles supplied by the us of a that could suddenly be used against the by the taliban

      Citizen - 2011-06-18 07:03

      I don't believe that regime change story for a minute. Why on earth would England and France concockt a regime change to bring Al Queda forces to power in Lybia? That's just plain stupid. It is certainly conceivable that there's an Al Queda presence or simply opportunists amongst the rebels smuggling weapons to the terrorists for a quick buck. This is very unfortunate and has made the world a much more dangerous place

      Anton - 2011-06-18 08:01

      Datbrotherfromthestates Also responding to some of your earlier posts. That they are extremely racist I can handle, and that many are personally insulting, is also fine with me. But where the heck do you get all this crap from ?? Not even these cheap conspiracy sites come up with this type of garbage. But, if this is what gives you enjoyment...., Go for it !!!

      Ingwe - 2011-06-18 08:24

      Dabrother you call it truth and facts I call it rubbish and certainly lacking in facts. Oznob and exactly how many of those Stingers missiles that are unaccounted for have been used successfully against the US, I think you will find the answer is none.

  • umlaut - 2011-06-18 08:37

    If I were the Americans these facts of loose weapons will be an inspiration to stay on and finish the job, that is, to get rid of Gedaffi and then to hunt for most of the weapons. If the rebels defeated Gedaffi on their own in some areas they would have looted weapons in any case and it could have been passed on to terrorists. This is the starting game for Nato and America, not the end game. Where Americans get involved, they disrupt the affected nation completely. So don't mess with America. If Nato is to withdraw now then Gedaffi is going to be a terrorist in any case, as revenge upon the west and allies (and no oil for the west) and he is going to get rid of 2mil. rebels to make sure they never threaten him again. These rebels that will be "saved" by Nato will at least have some sympathy towards Nato. America is in for a war with al-qaeda in any case so they may as well linger longer in Libya. The UN & Nato made a mistake not allowing ground troops and to finish the job quickly. I would have used the Lockerbie airplane attack as an excuse and Britain could have led the assault as to kill a terrorist. But they missed an opportunity. The Afghan troops that will be withdrawn will go straight into Lybia. What would have happened if Gedaffi just died a natural death without all these historic events,?-- Al-qaeda or the rebels could have taken over Completely after getting rid of the son of Gedaffi.

  • Anton - 2011-06-18 09:10

    During the South African struggle, there was none of this crazy talk going on. It was not about the USA, gold, diamonds or platinum. Nor about Uganda, Al Qaeda or what the Japanese thought about it. There was only one thing on the mind of most South Africans, ,How to get rid off an oppressive regime. Is it so so difficult to accept, that THIS is what the Libyans ALSO want. If the average Libyan would read these posts, they would shake their heads disbelieve !!!

  • Tilo - 2011-06-18 13:20

    War has always been a justified way of transferring tax money to private companies and consequently shareholders. (The rich elite). Other than that, do we, the people that have time to read this trash blog really have any idea what is going on the the halls of power and economics around the most powerful nations and people. I guess not! So all we do is guess and second guess and then spurt our opinions as facts. LOL

  • Datbrotherfromthestates - 2011-06-18 19:52

    Anton, and yourselves a favor and stop trying to sound smarter than you are! start off with this then reply! Ibrahim Bin Qumu Abdel Hakim Al-Hisadi here is an easier one for you Crisis! Libyan Rebels Have Sold Chemical Weapons To Hamas And Hezbollah With so much uncertainty in Libya, one thing is for sure – both Hamas and Hezbollah are much better armed with weapons to attack Israel and the United States. Looks like the Libyan rebels have just sold them piles of chemical weapons, as well as anti-air missiles. “Senior Libyan rebel “officers” sold Hizballah and Hamas thousands of chemical shells from the stocks of mustard and nerve gas that fell into rebel hands when they overran Muammar Qaddafi’s military facilities in and around Benghazi, debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources report. Word of the capture touched off a scramble in Tehran and among the terrorist groups it sponsors to get hold of their first unconventional weapons According to our sources, the rebels offloaded at least 2,000 artillery shells carrying mustard gas and 1,200 nerve gas shells for cash payment amounting to several million dollars. US and Israeli intelligence agencies have tracked the WMD consignments from eastern Libya as far as Sudan in convoys secured by Iranian agents and Hizballah and Hamas guards.

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