A United Nations panel says weaponry from Libya is spreading across North Africa to Gaza and Syria “at an alarming rate.”
The five-expert committee said in a 94-page report sent Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council that illegal transfers of arms from Libya to armed groups and terrorists have been proven.
The arms trafficking violations involved more than 12 countries and included light and heavy ordnance, such as portable air defense systems, mines, explosive materials, ammunition and small arms.
The panel made 28 visits to 15 nations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Ten of those visits were within Libya alone, The Washington Post reported.
“Libya has over the past two years become a significant and attractive source of weaponry in the region,” since the fall of 41-year Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011,” the report said. “The lack of an effective security system remains one of the primary obstacles to securing military materiel and controlling the borders.”
Last November, Cairo blocked two arms shipments to Gaza from Libya, with security forces arresting smugglers as they intercepted a large weapons shipment headed for Sinai from Libya. The move followed the ceasefire agreement that ended Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza terrorist rocket fire on southern Israel.
The areas into which Libyan arms have flowed included West Africa, the Levant “and potentially even the Horn of Africa,” the report noted. “Illicit flows from the country are fueling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-state actors, including terrorist groups.”
The panel also warned that armed terrorist groups in Libya, who it said are the best financed, are strengthening their position.
“The lack of political and security stability, the continuing absence of control over stockpiles by the national authorities and delays in disarmament and weapons collections encourage illicit trading and have generated considerable money-making opportunities for traffickers,” the report said.
On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, torching the compound and murdering four American diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. For more than six months prior to the attack, Stevens and other diplomats on the team repeatedly had urged the State Department to beef up defenses at the Consulate, warning the security situation in Libya had deteriorated. Their pleas were ignored.
British officials warned UK citizens in January of this year to leave the area immediately due to a concrete terrorist threat as well. An advisory by the British Foreign Office has already been in effect against trips to Benghazi and most of the rest of the country since last September following the Al Qaeda attack on the U.S. Consulate.
Likewise, Italy closed its consulate in eastern Libya in January for similar reasons.
“The Italian government has temporarily suspended activity at the consulate in Benghazi for security reasons. The staff will return to Italy in the next few hours,” the ministry said in a statement. Consul Guido De Sanctis’s bullet-proof car came under fire in the latest of a series of attacks targeting foreign missions and security officials. The consul escaped unharmed.