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Missing Libyan missiles a threat to civilian aircraft?

Published time: October 02, 2011 16:34
Edited time: October 02, 2011 21:19
A Libyan rebel with a SAM-7 flashes victory signs in Ajdabiya (AFP Photo / Patrick Baz)

A Libyan rebel with a SAM-7 flashes victory signs in Ajdabiya (AFP Photo / Patrick Baz)

Some 10,000 missiles are missing in Libya, NATO reportedly acknowledged in a secret meeting with German MPs. Fears of where the missing missiles may end up are worsened by the alarm that Gaddafi’s abandoned arsenals are still unguarded.

­NATO’s concerns emerged during a briefing Monday with German parliamentarians. Admiral Giampaolo di Paola said the missing ground-to-air missiles represent “a serious threat to civil aviation,” Der Spiegel magazine quoted him as saying Sunday.

The admiral, who chairs the committee of NATO military chiefs, added that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands and find purchasers “anywhere from Kenya to Kunduz [in Afghanistan]."

Meanwhile, Libya’s new military leadership declared on Saturday that some 5,000 ground-to-air missiles are still unaccounted for.

Gaddafi’s Libya bought about 20,000 SAM-7 missiles, Soviet or Bulgarian manufactured,” General Mohammed Adia said at a ceremony to disable some of the stockpile.

The SAM-7 is a shoulder-fired missile launcher which can be used against aircraft.

More than 14,000 of these missiles were used, destroyed or are now out of commission. About 5,000 of the SAM-7s are still missing,” he added, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

For several months, Libya’s stockpile of weapons, abandoned in the anarchy that followed the retreat of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s troops, has been climbing higher on the international forces’ agenda.  The volume of unaccounted weaponry differs from report to report. Thus, Washington on Tuesday meeting estimated that 20,000 surface-to-air Libyan missiles are missing.

What is certainly true is that many of Gaddafi’s arsenals remain open to any visitor – and eventually to the black market. The emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, first warned about the weapons being looted after a trip to Libya six months ago.

"I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18-wheelers and take away whatever they want," Bouckaert told ABC News.

The US State Department has provided $3 million to help destroy weapons in Libya and pledged to increase efforts to secure Libyan arms stockpiles. But now fears are high that the missing missiles might fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against civil aviation.