News / Middle East

Arms Watchdog Suspects Belarus-Libya Transports

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi seen during a welcome ceremony in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2008
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, right, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi seen during a welcome ceremony in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2008
James Brooke

A leading arms trade watchdog group suspects that Libya received a shipment of military equipment from Belarus, as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, reports that an Ilyushin IL-76 military cargo plane left Belarus two weeks ago and flew to Libya. The plane took off from Baranovichi, a Belarusian military base that inherited a huge stockpile of weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The plane flew to Sebha, a base deep in the Sahara that is still controlled by Gadhafi loyalists.

The information comes from Hugh Griffiths, a British arms control expert for SIPRI. "Sebha is a very interesting airport because it is still under the control of Gadhafi.  It’s surrounded by an area that is controlled by a tribe that is quite loyal, fiercely loyal, to Gadhafi.  Gadhafi spent some time growing up in Sebha.  He went to school there," he said.

Griffiths noted that the military cargo flight took place before a United Nations arms embargo imposed on Libya on Saturday.  He said that surplus Soviet weapons from Belarus have shown up in many conflicts in Africa. "The kinds of weapons that Belarus has stockpiled, like Ukraine, are the kinds of weapons used in poor man’s wars - cheap, readily available, mass-produced weaponry, left over the from the Cold War," he said.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon charged that Belarus violated an international arms embargo on the Ivory Coast by sending three attack helicopters to the forces of President Laurent Gbagbo.  Last December, that West African nation’s election commission declared that Mr. Gbagbo lost presidential elections.  He has refused to step down.

Belarus is also hemmed in by international sanctions imposed after disputed presidential elections late last year.  After the voting on December 19, Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko declared victory and threw most of his opponents in jail.

"It is straightforward defamation because we are not selling arms or any type of weapons to Libya," said Belarus Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh speaks from Minsk.

But 18 months ago, Khamis Gadhafi, the Libyan leader’s youngest son, visited Belarus to watch military exercises with President Lukashenko and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev.  A graduate of Russian military academies, Khamis Gadhafi is a fluent Russian speaker and has spoken publicly about buying arms from Belarus.

In the current uprising, he is leading the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit, in attacks on rebels around Tripoli.

SIPRI expert Griffiths said that last week, a Falcon 900 executive jet belonging to Moammar Gadhafi flew twice into Minsk airport.  He said the passenger seats were in place, ruling out the transport of heavy cargo.

Griffiths noted that Mr. Gadhafi maintained close ties in the 1990s with West African warlords - gang leaders who paid their bills with diamonds. "That is one of the very few items you can ship out on an executive jet that is non-traceable. This is a couple of days before the U.N. freeze came into effect," he said.

"What we are facing here, I believe, is clear and open speculation, and again defamation.  Because I can assure you that no flights from Libya entered Belarus during those days," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Savinykh, from From Minsk.

With both the governments of Libya and Belarus now under the magnifying glass of international sanctions, scrutiny of this shadowy relationship is expected to only increase in coming days.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More