News / Middle East

Libyan Arms Stockpiles in Egypt Causing Concern

Palestinian worker moves goods through a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai February 19, 2013.
Palestinian worker moves goods through a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai February 19, 2013.
Since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted as Libya’s leader over a year ago, Egyptian officials have been intercepting large caches of weapons smuggled from Libya destined for black-market transfer to Syria and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

But in recent weeks the pattern of the arms shipments has shifted, according to officials, and fundamentalist Muslim groups in Egypt, known as Salafis, also are receiving the weapons.

The pattern shift is alarming Egyptian officials, who estimate they are seizing only a fraction of the weaponry - including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles - flowing across the border from Libya.

In late February, Egyptian authorities announced they had intercepted two pickup trucks carrying 60 anti-tank missiles smuggled in from Libya.

Arms to Egyptian groups

The trucks, which were loaded in Mursa Matruh, 430 kilometers northwest of the Egyptian capital on the Mediterranean Coast, were heading to the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula. But officials now think that not all the missiles were earmarked for transfer to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

“Not all the weaponry flowing into Libya is going to the Gaza,” a European diplomat told VOA on the condition of anonymity. “The Egyptians are becoming alarmed that weapons are now being stockpiled by Egyptian Salafi groups. They are starting to uncover arms trafficked from Libya in the [Nile] Delta and believe other weapons are being stored in Sinai. It is making them very nervous.”

Weapons stockpiles

The reports of weapons stockpiling by militant Salafi groups is coming at a time of increased tension between Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Salafist political parties.

This past week, representatives of the Salafist Nour Party unleashed a scathing critique of President Morsi and the governing Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Other Islamists groups spurned by Morsi also joined in the attack, blaming him for Egypt’s worsening political crisis and warned that Egypt will remain on edge until a national unity government is appointed.

They accuse the government of using repressive tactics similar to those used by ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Adding to Morsi’s mounting woes, he also is being severely criticized by militant Islamists, including elements of al-Qaida. Late last month, Abu Mus’ab, a former adviser to the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, told an Arab broadcaster that Morsi’s government was, “evil.” “This regime must fall and an Islamic state be established,” he said.

Abdel-Fattah Othman, Egypt’s deputy interior minister for public security, warns that the proliferation of illegal weapons is making what is an already tense situation even worse.

“Weapons coming from neighboring countries are contributing to the chaos,” Othman said. “In Port Said, for example, we faced armed groups using rockets and grenades in an attempt to storm the city’s prison complex.”

Since the end of January, more than 60 people have died in such clashes, three of them policemen.

With militant groups in Egypt stockpiling more weapons, the fear is that unrest could lead to greater violence.

Libyan weapons in Mali

Arms trafficking from Libya contributed to the destabilization of northern Mali, where huge inflows of weapons plundered from Gadhafi’s arsenals helped Tuareg mercenaries and jihadist fighters to carve out their own enclave in the heart of the sub-Sahara.

Last November, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM) leader who masterminded the seizure of an Algerian natural gas plant in January, bragged about how easy it had been to obtain Libyan weapons. Belmokhtar, later reported killed by pro-government forces in Mali, said his group got the weapons through channels from Gadhafi’s arsenals during the eight-month-long uprising that ousted the late Libyan leader.

The weapons intercepted in Egypt have included everything needed to start a small war - surface-to-air missiles, rockets, anti-aircraft guns, automatic rifles, RPG7 rocket launchers and huge amounts of ammunition.

Libyan rockets hit Israel

A Palestinian worker takes a break from working on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt's Sinai and the Gaza Strip.A Palestinian worker takes a break from working on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt's Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
x
A Palestinian worker takes a break from working on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt's Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian worker takes a break from working on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt's Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
Experts in the region noted that many of the rockets fired into Israel from Gaza late last year were Grad rockets obtained from Libyan sources. The Egyptian security services say they have seized consignments that included Grad rockets. One of the biggest seizures came last November when Egyptian authorities intercepted a shipment of 108 Grad warheads on the docks at Mursa Matruh.

Egyptian President Morsi has vowed to crack down on the arms trafficking. And on February 3, Egyptian authorities began flooding the tunnels used for smuggling weapons and commercial goods between Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai.

According to U.S. intelligence sources, contacts have increased in recent months between Al Qaeda-linked Jihadists and more localized Salafist groups in Sinai and the Egyptian Delta region.

Paul Sullivan, of the Washington D.C.-based National Defense University, says that continued instability in Egypt bodes ill for long-term security. “The more poor and hopeless young people there are the easier it is for militants to recruit, pay and train them.”

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: S. Hanifl from: La Crosse, WI
March 06, 2013 6:23 PM
America does not fund the Muslim Brotherhood, at least this is not public knowledge. What is public knowledge is that as long as the Middle East continues to threaten American allies and defy, rightly or wrongly, modern western morality, America and the rest of the developed world have a vested interest in keeping close tabs on the goings on of Egyptians. I say to you, Egyptian, take care of your mess at home so you can rejoin the international community proudly. And learn to ignore the propaganda and realize the truth, that America wants stability as much as it wants democracy. Give it both.


by: Hatbat Al Quds from: Egypt
March 05, 2013 11:32 PM
America, the AK47 and explosives weapons coming here are from Libya, Iran and Gaza- Hamas. but bad drugs are coming here from Turkey. everyone buys guns, police very bad, worse than ever, arresting everyone not Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is helping Muslim Brotherhood police to kill Egyptians. America, you give weapons to Muslim Brotherhood WHY??? they are killing us with your weapons. WHY?? America!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid