COUNTER TERRORISM: More Libyan Anti-Aircraft Missiles Go Missing

July 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

An Update on Missing MANPADS Threat

A Cold War-era SA-7 heat seeking missile. (Defense Dept. photo via Wikipedia)

An SA-7 heat seeking missile in action during the Cold War. (Defense Department photo via Wikipedia)

Remember this picture? We have an update on the March 4 post it illustrated: the disappearance of small anti-aircraft missiles from the armories of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, and the continued risk of them making their way into terrorists’ hands.

The missiles, known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems or MANPADS, are shoulder-fired, heat-seeking weapons that government officials around the world fear could be used against  commercial airliners, the New York Times reports. Since the 1970s, MANPADS attacks have been launched against more than 40 civilian aircraft in more than 18 countries (but not Libya). Twenty-five planes have been shot down, killing more than 800 people, according to the U.S. State Department.

Back in February, as anti-Qaddafi rebels seized the regime’s weapons depots in the western part of the country, concerns were raised that the surface-to-air missiles might make their way onto the black market and wind up with terrorists. There have been no reports of Libyan rebels selling seized weapons on the black market.

Qaddafi’s forces are believed to have amassed as many as 20,000 of the mostly Soviet-made SA-7 missiles. It is not known how many were seized by rebels, most of whom have little or no military training.

Now the Times’ C.J. Chivers reports coming across boxes and boxes of empty SA-7 containers  near an arms depot recently seized by anti-Qaddafi rebels in western Libya.

Since the uprising began, officials in neighboring Chad and Algeria have said MAPADS taken from Libya have been taken across their borders, winding up in the hands of a North African offshoot of al Qaeda: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The U.S. has contracted with two international organizations, Britain’s Mines Advisory Group and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action to help secure the  MANPADS stockpiles and prevent them from leaving the country, Chivers reports.

Photo courtesy of Federation of American Scientists

Meanwhile, the U.S. government today (July 15) recognized the rebels National Transitional Council as the legitimate government in Libya — until a fully representational interim government can be established.



Entry filed under: Africa, International Crime, National Security and Defense, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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