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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora