Posts tagged libya
Posts tagged libya
As you walk through Souk Ashia in Benghazi’s El Fonduc district, the transition from flea market to arms fair is gradual. First come small pistols, then shotguns, then the pure-blooded weapons of war: the grenades, the Kalashnikovs, and the large black machine guns that look like they should be mounted on the back of a vehicle and firing off 10,000 rounds a minute.
The customers in this section of the market are mostly young men, many of whom wear mix-and-match camouflage outfits. Behind the stalls selling assault rifles there’s a makeshift firing range, where a couple of guys are strolling about smoking cigarettes. Well, I say it’s a firing range, but there aren’t actually any targets—just people letting off sporadic rounds in seemingly random directions.
As we browse the goods on offer, we’re given our fair share of stony looks and surrounded by a frenzy of clicking noises as prospective buyers slide clips in and out of guns and dry fire weapons. There’s a familiarity to the scene, with people moving between stalls intently hunting bargains, but—on top of the normal flea market murmers—there’s a hard edge of paranoia. Which isn’t exactly much of a surprise, considering there are very powerful weapons everywhere you look.
The U.S. will continue to support Libya in securing the enormous stockpiles of weapons left by the ousted regime of Muammar Qadhafi, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.
Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, made the statement on Tuesday during her daily press briefing. Harf responded to a question about a recent report that 400 U.S. missiles are presumed missing on the way through Turkey to Syria. She said she did not have anything specific on the report, but she mentioned the security vacuum in Libya where stockpiles of weapons are at risk in the region.
Harf said the U.S. will assist Libya in the effort to support securing the conventional weapons through technical assistance.
Thirty-eight years ago, a largely forgotten Belgian ambassador serving in Libya sent a secret cable from Tripoli to his home office in Brussels. Now declassified, the contents of the cable, “Libyan Arms from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia,” offered one diplomat’s baldly undiplomatic take on a theme common at the time among analysts trying to assess the activities of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi: What was the colonel up to as he placed order after order for more weapons?
This cable was discovered by Damien Spleeters, an independent journalist, in Belgium’s government archives. It does more than offer new insights into Libya’s arms-procurement record. It presents the naked cynicism of the very suppliers of part of Colonel Qaddafi’s lethal bounty. And it suggests that those making the arms deals knew, even 40 years ago, that Libya’s weapons would not be retained by Libya’s government — an observation that in light of the proliferation risks posed by Libya’s stockpiles reads like a starkly reckless position for an arms-dealing nation to take.
Rebel fighters in Mali made extensive use of weapons originally from Libyan arsenals during 2012/13, a joint investigation by The Small Arms Survey and Conflict Armament Research has found.
In a new report, they note the rebellion in particularly the northern areas of Mali differed in scale and intensity to previous Tuareg rebellions in the same region.
“This,” the report notes, “has been attributed to an outpouring of weapons, ammunition and related materiel from the 2011 Libyan civil war.
The projectile of an NR-160 recoilless rifle round, left, identical to ordnance documented in Libya, at a Mali base previously occupied by Islamist extremists.
Since the war that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi began in 2011, arms-tracking analysts have warned that weapons looted from the colonel’s stockpiles could find their way to militants in sub-Saharan Africa.
Although public evidence for transfers has been scarce or not fully verifiable, persistent accounts of smuggled arms reaching Mali have circulated for more than a year, just as reports have repeatedly suggested that weapons formerly in Libya were turning up in Egypt, Gaza, Chad, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere.
In the case of Mali, the reports appeared alongside signs of the growing strength of jihadists in the country’s north. The timing, researchers said, suggested that weapons from Libya had changed the course of Mali’s war — so much so that the French military eventually intervened.
Early in the war last year that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, NATO aircraft attacked a government ammunition depot on the high desert plateau of the country’s west.
Libyans residing many miles away would later report feeling a series of earth-shaking blasts — the results of bomb after bomb striking concrete bunkers and detonating ordnance stored inside. The depot, in Ga’a, then fell to anti-Qaddafi fighters, who overran the place and looted it of anything they might use or sell. Tons beyond counting of dangerous items remained behind, stacked in broken bunkers or scattered on the desert floor after being heaved out.
Among the deadly refuse were weapons that we could not identify, one sample of which is shown at the top of the post, plainly labeled “DANGER EXPLOSIVE DO NOT TOUCH.” If that warning were not enough, the bright yellow stripe — a common paint scheme on munitions that typically signals that an item contains high explosives — further indicated that this was a hazardous device that should not be handled or disturbed. When we spotted it, we made a quick set of photographs, moved on and later began showing the images around. We wondered: Is this a grenade fired from a vehicle mount, or perhaps something else? No explanation seemed to fit.
Abandoned weapons that were once part of toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s arsenal pose an ongoing and serious threat to civilians in Libya, warned a report published by Harvard University on Thursday.
People gather to inspect the damage to the Libyan intelligence building after a bomb explosion, in Benghazi August 1, 2012.
"These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact," said Bonnie Docherty, leader of the research team sent to Libya by Harvard Law School and partner organisation CIVIC.
Weapons left behind after last year’s conflict range from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles, creating an “explosive situation” in a country with a weak central government, the report said.
"The sheer scale of weapons here is shocking," co-author Nicolette Boehland told AFP in Tripoli.
Laos is one country that has paid dearly for unexploded landmines and cluster bombs on its territory, and much needs to be done to ban these weapons and invest in mine clearance.
MAG experts clear an area of UXO, in the Plain of Jars, Phonsavan, Laos, in 2005. Photograph: Andrew McConnell/Alamy
Amid confirmed reports of landmine use in four countries, the director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Kasia Derlicka, recently warned: “We fear that the global stigma the mine ban treaty has established [in the past 15 years] is under attack.”
Landmines and cluster munitions have been described as “weapons of social cataclysm”, which perpetuate poverty and prevent development. They leave a legacy of indiscriminate civilian injuries and deaths, burden struggling healthcare systems and render vast tracts of land uninhabitable and unproductive. As Kate Wiggans, from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) says: “They keep poor people poor, decades after conflict.”
The ICBL-CMC has achieved remarkable progress in the past 20 years. This year Somalia became the 160th signatory to the mine ban treaty, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions has been joined by 111 countries. These treaties have succeeded in binding signatory countries to renounce such weapons, destroy their stockpiles and assist with mine clearance programmes.
A NATO bomb that did not go off sat in Brega, Libya last year. The NATO list of sites suspected to have unexploded ordnance does not include details of the types of bombs or their fuzes. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
The release by NATO of a list of unexploded munitions from the alliance’s military action in Libya has been both welcomed as a step toward postconflict accountability and criticized as a half-measure that falls short of protecting civilians and specialists trying to rid the country of its hazards.
The United Nations said this month that NATO, in an exchange not publicly disclosed, had shared details of 313 possible sites of unexploded ordnance from the alliance’s action against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government last year. The alliance provided the latitude and longitude for each site, the weight of the ordnance and a description of the means of delivery (fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunship or naval vessel).
With the widespread use of sophisticated targeting sensors, with which aircrews record infrared video of the impact of a missile or bomb, air forces have a greater capacity than ever to know exactly where weapons struck and when they have failed to function properly. Such data is routinely gathered as part of what militaries call battle damage assessment. It is used to determine whether a target has been destroyed or should be hit again, and to assess the reliability and effectiveness of various missiles and bombs.