A team of weapons experts has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of man-operated portable weapons secured from Libya may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists. (Mahmud Turkia / Agence France-Presse)
LONDON — A multinational team of weapons experts has secured and destroyed 5,000 Libyan man-operated portable air defense systems and components left over after the fall of the Gadhafi regime, according to the British Ministry of Defence. The team has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of the weapons may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists.
“The team has concluded that most remaining MANPADS are likely to be under the control of regional military councils and militias,” the British said, adding that they were helping fund the Libyan authorities and the U.N. implementation of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program to bring the remaining systems back under the control of the central government.
A joint military-civilian team made up of U.K., French, U.S. and Libyan personnel have been in country since last August helping to track down the large numbers of weapons left by Gadhafi’s regime.
The U.S. government estimates Gadhafi’s forces had about 20,000 MANPADS in their armory at the time of the regime’s collapse, raising fears that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
The British MoD said in a statement released April 12 that thousands of the weapons had been destroyed during the conflict, and that inspections of more than 1,600 ammunition bunkers had “identified, secluded, disabled or confirmed as destroyed 5,000 components and complete systems.”
The MoD was unable to give a breakdown of weapon types found, but they are likely to be mainly Russian-built SA-7 Grail missiles.