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Arms embargo on Libya affects operations against Islamist militants: LNA spokesperson

Bassem Aly , Monday 30 Jul 2018
Ahmed al-Mismari
Spokesperson of the Libyan army Ahmed al-Mismari speaks to journalists in Cairo, Egypt, July 29, 2018 (Photo: Bassem Aly)
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The international arms embargo is making it harder for the Libyan National Army (LNA) — led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar — to defeat Islamist militants in Libya, LNA spokesperson said on Sunday.

"When you win a battle, you have to immediately move to the next stage of the operation, but this didn't happen," said Colonel Ahmed al-Mismari, chalking this outcome up to the arms embargo.

Speaking in a media briefing organised by weekly magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, which was attended by Egyptian and Libyan diplomats and military experts, al-Mismari noted that roughly 21 million "pieces of weapons" have either been smuggled out of Libya or sold to militias in the country since 2011.

He described the embargo as "very harmful" for the LNA, saying it caused a shortage in weapons and affected "our ability to protect our borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad and different parts of Libya."

On 26 February 2011, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1970, which prevents "direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer" of weapons to Libya.

The embargo included "weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel."

In May 2014, Haftar launched Operation Dignity against Islamist militants in the port city of Benghazi on the Mediterranean Sea and eastern parts, mainly Derna, of Libya.

The LNA, in 2016, started another operation — entitled "Swift Thunder" — to gain control over the Oil Cresent.

Al-Mismari said the LNA — with the support of the "Libyan people" — successfully finalised its operations in these areas, even though the victory needed more time than usual due to ammunition shortages.

However, al-Mismari stressed, the LNA is still facing challenges in terms of dealing with threats posed by smugglers and militias located on the western coast of Libya, which is a "threat to Egypt, Sudan and Chad as well."

He said that a "dear price" has been paid, citing thousands of people who were injured, suffered paralysis and lost limps in the Benghazi battle.

This situation, according to the spokesperson, has also increased the ability of Islamist militants groups — such as the Islamic State (IS) militant group, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood — to expand their control over Libyan territories.

Meanwhile, al-Mismari referred to external support for the Islamist militias, saying that "some states are backing the terrorists, while the international community is not standing with us [LNA]."

In specific, al-Mismari accused Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Sudan of providing political, financial and military support to the armed groups, a situation that, he argued, increased their ambition to expand their control over many parts of Libya.

Al-Mismari played a video in which Al-Qaeda's personnel receive medical treatment in Turkish capital Ankara and Qatari army officers train "terrorists" on shooting inside Libyan territories.

The footage also showed Al-Qaeda militants, who were fighting in Libya and are currently located along the Syrian-Turkish borders, as well as other Islamist militants coming from different African states take part in the Libyan war.

Al-Mismari stated that some of Al-Qaeda's militants moved from Afghanistan to Libya, even though arrest warrants had been issued against them in several countries.

"There are states that help terrorists move from Libya to countries like Syria, Somalia and Mali and offer them money and weapons," he said.

"Is that what the international community wants? Is Libya being destroyed over oil? Who has an interest in killing Libyan soldiers and army officers and seeing this destruction happen in Libya?" Said al-Mismari.

The Libyan colonel said if it hadn't been for the LNA's ongoing operations, the Islamist militants would have been fighting each other over political power in Libya.

"We managed to weaken them [Islamist militants] and turn them into smaller groups, but they continue to attack the army forces. Two days ago, we killed 13 terrorists, and clashes are still ongoing."

Al-Mismari stressed that no other state offered more support for Libya than Egypt, hailing Cairo for providing political, logistical, and medical support for the LNA.

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