Military officials with Libya’s UN-recognised government say they have seized US-made weapons at a base they captured from forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya, prompting an investigation by the US Department of State.
The Libya Government of National Accord (GNA) retook Gharyan, a strategic town south of the capital, from Haftar’s rebel Libyan National Army (LNA).
The GNA said that among the weaponry its forces seized were a number of US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles packed in wooden crates marked “armed forces of the United Arab Emirates” (UAE). Libyan media also aired footage that appeared to show markings that indicated that the US-made weapons were originally sold to the UAE – a major buyer of US weapons and one of Haftar’s main international supporters – in 2008.
Also included was Chinese GP-1 155mm Guided Artillery Shells, known to be in Libya & other arms marked as from the UAE.
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) June 28, 2019
“The seized weapons and ammunition have been sent to the specialised experts and have been documented,” Mohammed Qununu, spokesman for the GNA’s military operation, told reporters on Saturday in Gharyan.
“The military commanders and the political leaders are now fully aware of these weapons and ammunition to make the right decisions that will be announced.”
Reporting from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said the GNA had launched a fact-finding mission with the goal of documenting the seized weapons and producing a report that would be submitted to international institutions such as the UN and possibly countries like the US.
“Government forces showed off dozens of US-made anti-tank missiles. They said [the weapons] were seized from Haftar’s forces in Gharyan … [and] were supplied by the UAE,” Abdelwahed said, noting that the Gulf country has long supplied weapons to Haftar, including unmanned drones, as well as armed vehicles and fighter jets.
There was no immediate comment from the UAE. A New York Times report said the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, had declined to answer questions about the provenance of the missiles.
US says investigating missile find at Libya rebel base
The United States said Saturday it was looking into reports that American anti-tank missiles were found by forces loyal to Libya’s unity government at a captured rebel base.
The New York Times reported Friday that four Javelin missiles were found at a base used by men under the command of Khalifa Haftar, a military leader who has waged a months-long offensive against Libya’s internationally recognized government based in Tripoli.
Markings indicate the missiles were first sold to the United Arab Emirates, a major buyer of US arms.
“We take all allegations of misuse of US origin defense articles very seriously. We are aware of these reports and are seeking additional information,” a State Department spokesperson said on condition of anonymity.
“We expect all recipients of US origin defense equipment to abide by their end-use obligations.”
If they were then sold or transferred to Haftar, that would violate both the terms of the sale and a UN arms embargo on Libya, the report said.
The UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are seen as key supporters of Haftar.