There are still vestiges of Gaddafi’s government fighting the rebels some of whom have ties to al Qaeda. Today neither side is truly ruling over Libya nor will control be settle for weeks to come. With the chaos happening throughout the country, Libya may turn out to be an arms boom to terrorists across Africa and the Middle East. Arsenals ranging from small arms to chemicals weapons are being found, opened and sold by unorganized opposition fighters and ordinary Libyans.
“It’s very hard to say what is actually out there. The large arsenals in the hands of Libyan armed forces have been plundered. This plundering has been very disorganized. People walk in and take whatever they need and load them onto trucks. No one knows where those trucks are going,” said Pieter Wezeman, a research arms transfer program research, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
“There will be very many weapons from these arsenals spreading throughout Libya and maybe outside of Libya,” Wezeman, told The Media Line.
Unlike the government change in Egypt, the Libyan rebellion has brought anarchy for the time being and the Gaddafi regimes weapons stockpile is pure gold, especially when you consider that the countries unguarded borders make movement out of Libya relatively easy.
Hours after rebel fighters seized the leader’s Bab Al-Aziziya headquarters in Tripoli, looters were seen carrying out trophies like gold-plated pistols and submachine guns, not to mention flat-screen television sets and household goods. But the prize for arms smugglers and their clients is Libya’s vast arsenal of small and portable weapons.
Some weapons have already found their new owners.
Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line that there are already signs that some Libyan weaponry has reached the Islamic militant movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Don’t forget that smuggling weapons into the Gaza strip from the Egyptian Sinai peninsula has become much easier since the ouster of Mubarak six months ago.
No one knows exactly what there is, where it is stored or in what condition it is in, but SIPRI has reported that the Ukraine supplied 100,000 rifles to Libya in 2007-08 while Russia reportedly sold Gaddafi an unknown number of its Igla-S, a man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile popular with militant groups. Also known as the SA-24 in one of its variants, it could be the biggest prize of all in the arsenal, Wezeman said.
Gen. Carter Ham, commander of US Africa Command, said last April in Congressional testimony that as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles were in the country when NATO operations began last March. “Many of those, we know, are now not accounted for,” said Ham, who was once in charge of the military operation in Libya.
The US has budgeted $3 million to date for two international weapons-abatement teams to find and destroy anti-aircraft systems and other munitions and landmines. They have found shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile systems, including Russian SA-7 launchers. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington is taking steps to make certain that “the governing forces in Libya have full command and control of any WMD [weapons of mass destruction] or any security assets that the state might have had,” the Associated Press reported.
Some are saying that the NATO refusal to put “boots on the ground,” may be facilitating the movement of arms to terrorists.
“Libya has probably fewer of the most modern weapons terrorists would like to get their hands on because the country was subject to a United Nations arms embargo. Even after it was lifted,” Wezeman said, adding that Gaddafi had signed a few deals.
“They were looking at weapons but hadn’t ordered many yet, very little really modern material has reached Libya,” he said. “But small arms don’t have to be modern to be effective.”
As far as the WMDs, Libyan stockpiles contain the the components of the weapons rather than completed armaments.
Libya dismantled its chemical weapons program eight years ago when it joined the Chemicals Weapons Convention. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has verified that two of the country’s three known chemical plants were destroyed and a third was converted by agreement into a pharmaceutical facility, said Michael Luhan, a spokesman OPCW, an Amsterdam-based group that monitors countries’ compliance with the convention.
When unrest broke out last February, Libya was in the process of destroying stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemicals, stored in corroding drums, at a site southeast of Tripoli.
Coincidentally, the equipment being used to destroy the stockpile broke down days before the fighting. Mustard gas can cause severe blistering and death, but Luhan said terrorists would likely have trouble making use of it.
“It would be difficult to weaponize the existing stockpile of mustard gas – difficult but not impossible,” he told The Media Line. “Whether it would be worth it depends on what someone would plant to do it. It’s in very suboptimal conditions right now. For it to be weaponized, the technical factors involved would make weaponizing it difficult.”
Its the same story with his nuclear supply:
Gaddafi surrendered the hardware for his nuclear program and let the US remove about 5.5 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium from a nuclear research reactor near Tripoli two years ago. While there are still some 500 to 900 metric tons of raw uranium yellowcake stored in drums at Libya’s lone nuclear reactor, east of Tripoli, it would require considerable refining and enrichment to be used as an explosive.
But it could be used as a dirty bomb “as is.”
This is another example of the United States joining an operation without thinking things though. While NATO nears its goal of removing Gaddifi, many of the arms he left behind may be used against the U.S. or her allies in the war against terror.