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Sun Sep 30, 2012, 02:21 PM

VOA: Thousands of Libyan Anti-Aircraft Missiles Loose. Video shows Syrian Rebels with SA-7.

Last edited Sun Sep 30, 2012, 03:17 PM - Edit history (3)

News / Middle East http://www.voanews.com/content/syrian-rebels-step-up-efforts-to-get-anti-aircraft-missiles/1489899.html

Syrian Rebels Step Up Efforts to Get Anti-Aircraft Missiles

ON EDIT: Syrian opposition groups now have MANPADS. Video at 00:43, tall man with light blue pants in background row with SA-7.

Jamie Dettmer
August 16, 2012
ALEPPO, Syria - Syrian rebels are redoubling their efforts to acquire portable anti-aircraft missiles following government airstrikes on cities and towns in the north of the country. In the latest such strike, a Syrian Air Force jet bombed the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100. Rebel commanders and activists say their buyers are now scouring the arms black markets in the region to get the shoulder-fired missiles that can counter the government airstrikes.

According to opposition activist “Tony” al-Taieb, who works with the rebel military council in Aleppo, representatives with cash from rich Syrian exiles are negotiating to buy the portable surface-to-air missiles, often called SAMS or MANPADS, for “Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System.”


“We need a no-fly zone and, failing that, anti-aircraft missiles,” says Zaher Sherkat, a 32-year-old commander of the rebel Abu Bakr brigade. The unit is now down to about 120 fighters after losing 20 men in the Aleppo fighting. “We have had 20 ‘martyrs’ from my brigade and about 30 wounded,” he says.


Despite press reports that rebels already have a small supply of MANPADS missiles, rebel commanders insist they don’t. And there have been no verified media reports of rebels firing such missiles.


The U.S. and other western governments sympathetic to the anti-Assad rebellion have so far declined to supply the rebels with portable anti-aircraft missiles. One reason cited is that such missiles, capable of shooting down a commercial aircraft, could fall into the hands of terrorists or foreign Jihadists now reported infiltrating into Syria. At a recent meeting with reporters in Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said the U.S. government hadn’t seen any evidence of MANPADS missiles getting into Syria from Libya, but acknowledged such a possibility was an area of concern. U.S. officials estimate that the late Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya may have had as many as 20,000 MANPADS missile systems and that several thousand of them turned up missing during the civil war there last year. Al-Taieb, the Aleppo opposition activist, would not talk about the possibility that Syrian rebels were buying some of the Libyan missiles.

“In the coming days we will have a consignment of MANPADS, Insha'Allah,” says al-Taieb. Asked whether if rebels managed to secure MANPADS, would they have trouble moving them into Turkey and then across the border, he responded: “The Turkish government turns a blind eye to some things but not others.”

Times of London: Shipload of Looted Libyan Missiles Arrives in Turkey on Way to Syria

Three days after the attack that killed the US Ambassador to Libya, The Times (UK) carried a story that a Libyan freighter loaded with stolen SA-7 antiaircraft missiles had offloaded at a Turkish port.

That September 14 article was captioned, “Syrian rebels squabble over weapons as biggest shipload arrives from Libya.” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article3537770.ece

The report states that a Libyan ship, 'The Intisaar', docked at the Turkish port of Iskenderun after "papers stamped by the port authority” were issued to “the ship's captain, Omar Mousaeeb." Mousaeeb is identified as "a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support," reportedly delivering supplies to armed opposition groups in Syria.

If accurate, that account provides some of the most solid, detailed evidence yet of how the Eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has become the North African transit hub for weapons and foreign fighters arriving for regime change operations in Syria.

This has been happening right under the nose of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officers posted in Benghazi. The late Ambassador, Chris Andrews, arrived in Benghazi aboard a freighter in April 2011, and promptly set up shop coordinating Islamic militia groups in the overthrow of Muammar Gadhaffi’s regime.

According to the article, there were 400 tons of weapons, including an unspecified number of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, aboard the ship. This is merely the largest in a number of weapons shipments that have arrived in Turkey with the seeming coordination and complicity by Turkish authorities.

After the overthrow of the Libyan government, huge weapons stockpiles were looted and went unaccounted for, most of them falling into the hands of militant groups. The Times quotes Libyan officials that "more than 5,000 of the missiles had vanished." The article references an incident earlier this year in which a Libyan ship carrying "a large consignment of Libyan weapons, including PRGs and heavy ammunition," was seized by the Lebanese authorities in Lebanon’s northern territorial waters.

U.S. officials have repeatedly stated concern that advanced weaponry from Libyan stockpiles, such as MANPADS (portable missiles that can be used to shoot down airliners), have not been accounted for. It was reported that one of the reasons for the continued presence of the Ambassador and the large CIA station in Benghazi are concerns about militant groups outside of Libya obtaining these weapons. In fact, a retired Navy Seal who died with the Ambassador stated to ABC that he was in Libya on a mission to locate these missiles. See, ABC, The Blotter, American Killed in Libya was on Intel Mission to Track Weapons, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/glen-doherty-navy-seal-killed-libya-intel-mission/story?id=17229037#.UGXzzq6QSEd

One of the Americans killed alongside Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya Tuesday told ABC News before his death that he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to round up dangerous weapons in the war-torn nation.

SA-7 Strella

Libyan rebels with SA-7 (2011)

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