Libyan Anti-Aircraft Missiles, Now Apparently in al-Qaeda Hands

An update to my article a few weeks ago on arms-smuggling in Libya, before, during, and after the civil war there: The AP found documents from an al-Qaeda-affiliated group showing that they indeed have shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles:

The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Note that while the Libyan rebels took these sorts of missiles from Qaddafi’s stockpiles during the war, the Qatari government was also smuggling in this type of weapon across Libya’s southern border, with secret approval of the U.S government.

In April 2011, Reuters quoted an Algerian security official who claimed that al-Qaeda was smuggling missiles out of Libya:

The official said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks left eastern Libya, crossed into Chad and then Niger, and from there into northern Mali where in the past few days it delivered a cargo of weapons . . . al Qaeda’s north African wing, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired from Libya Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the NATO designation SAM-7.

The dateline of today’s AP story is . . . Timbuktu, Mali.

There is significant evidence that both U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and the CIA personnel in Benghazi were focused on recovering these type of missiles in the days leading up to his death on September 11.


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