Meanwhile, Back in Benghazi . . .
Remember my story about the smuggling of shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles in and out of Libya during that country’s civil war? Public reports indicate U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was working on tracking those missiles when he was attacked and murdered in Benghazi. While the most lurid allegations of U.S. arms smuggling to Libya are not yet proven, the Obama administration did give its blessing to Qatar’s smuggling of arms to the Libyan rebels in 2011 — and later realized that the weapons were ending up in the hands of Islamist militants. The quiet approval of the arms smuggling violated a United Nations arms embargo — and probably ended up exacerbating a problem that would eventually require Stevens to be in that city at that time — when the danger was so considerable.
There is a new Reuters report from Benghazi that further corroborates the account of Libyans smuggling their leftover weapons, including missiles, through Benghazi to Syria and adds additional details:
Abdul Basit Haroun says he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria, which he delivers on chartered flights to neighbouring countries and then smuggles over the border.
. . . The first consignment of weapons was smuggled into Syria aboard a Libyan ship delivering aid last year, Haroun says, but now containers of arms are flown “above board” into neighbouring countries on chartered flights.
That Libyan ship departed shortly before the attack against Americans in Benghazi:
On September 14, 2012, three days after Stevens was killed, Sheera Frenkel, a correspondent for the Times of London, reported from Antakya, Turkey:
“A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began has docked in Turkey and most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines, The Times has learnt.
“Among more than 400 tonnes of cargo the vessel was carrying were SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which Syrian sources said could be a game-changer for the rebels.
“Frenkel’s report identified the ship’s captain as ‘Omar Mousaeeb, a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organisation called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support, which is supporting the Syrian uprising.’”
The Reuters report continues:
A Reuters reporter was taken to an undisclosed location in Benghazi to see a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria. It was stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons.,,
The UN report appears to confirm at least some of Haroun’s account, in its investigation in the case of a second vessel, the Al Entisar.
The [UN] Panel investigated a news report that a Libyan ship with around 400 tonnes of aid had supplied Syrian rebels with “the largest consignment of weapons . . . since the uprising”.
The Panel found that the loading port was Benghazi, that the exporter was “a relief organization based in Benghazi” and the consignee was the same Islamic foundation based in Turkey that Haroun said had helped with documentation.
Great omen for our efforts to arm the Syrians, huh?