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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid