Libyan Surface to Air Missiles in Al Qaeda's Hands

Yup, that's right, according to a new report from the New York Times.

The Times' ace war correspondent, C.J. Chivers, yesterday wrote a great piece highlighting the truly sorry state of the Libyan rebels arsenal; describing everything from jerry-rigged rocket launchers and machine guns stolen from tanks to the fact that many of them are carrying ammunition-less rifles that may have been left by Italian colonial troops more than 60 years ago.

While Chivers' account of the primitive and sometimes useless weapons being used against Gadhafi's forces are disheartening, the fact that some of the more sophisticated weapons like surface-to-air missiles, that the rebels seem to have little use for, may be making their into the hands of some very bad people is very disturbing.

From the article:

The rebels are also in possession of weapons that if sold, lost or misused, could undermine their revolution’s reputation and undercut their cause.

These include anti-aircraft missiles and land mines, both of which the rebels have used on at least a limited basis so far, and which pose long-term regional security threats.

Most disturbingly, the article goes on to say that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems or MANPADS) looted from Libyan arsenals have apparently been found on Al Qaeda fighters in Algeria and Chad:
After capturing former military arsenals, the rebels openly distributed portable anti-aircraft missiles, known as Manpads. If they drift from the rebels’ possession to black markets, they could be used by terrorists to attack civilian aviation.

The weapons have little current utility for the rebels. Aircraft now overhead in Libya are almost always from NATO, or otherwise considered friendly. (One rebel helicopter was visible flying near the front lines about 10 days ago.)

Nonetheless, rebels still carry them, and officials in Algeria and Chad have publicly said that since the uprising began, loose Manpads from Libya have been acquired by operatives with Al Qaeda in Africa.

Guaranteed the threat of more western-supplied weapons falling into the wrong hands is playing a factor in the decision to limit the supplies NATO is providing to the rebel forces. Show Full Article

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