Haftar accuses Turkey of violating arms embargo on Libya

The Libyan eastern-based army said: “The ammunition in those shipments included more than 4.2 million bullets, enough to kill nearly 80 percent of the Libyan people.”
Friday 21/12/2018
Members of an armed group prepare their weapons during clashes in Benghazi. (Reuters)
Awash in arms. Members of an armed group prepare their weapons during clashes in Benghazi. (Reuters)

TUNIS – Libyan National Army Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar called on the UN Security Council to condemn Turkey for violating the arms embargo that has been imposed on the North African country since February 2011. He also accused Ankara of fomenting chaos in the country by supporting armed groups and backing terrorists.

Haftar’s statements came following reports of two Turkish shipment carrying various types of rifles and munitions, seized at the western Libyan port city of al-Khoms on December 17 and 18.

The Libyan eastern-based army has earlier issued a similar call for the UN Security Council to launch an immediate investigation into the shipments.

The army, in a statement released late on December 19, voiced deep concern over the arrival of shipments that were carrying various types of rifles and munitions.

“The ammunition in those shipments included more than 4.2 million bullets, enough to kill nearly 80 percent of the Libyan people, as well as pistols and rifles with their accessories, including silencers used for assassinations,” the statement said.

“This is a proof that the purpose (of those arms) is to be used for terrorist operations in the Libyan territories.”

It added, “The general command of the army demands the UN Security Council, the United Nations and the United Nations Mission in Libya to condemn the Turkish Republic and start an immediate investigation into it.”

A swift reaction from the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) came on December 20, with the mission saying that the UN panel of experts is expected to look into the seized shipments.

“Reports of a large shipment of weapons arriving at Libya’s shore are extremely disconcerting,” the UNSMIL said in a statement.

“Libya needs stability and peace, not more weapons. The UN Security Council decision to ban the import and export of arms is clear and explicit. We expect Panel of Experts to look into this matter,” the statement added.

“The Tripoli-based government also announced it will launch an investigation into the two shipments,” Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj’s spokesman, Mohamed al-Sallak, said in a statement.

“Prime Minister Fayez [Sarraj] issued instructions to the concerned security agencies to open a thorough investigation into the two arms and ammunition shipments seized at Khoms port,” the statement said.

Sarraj also instructed the Foreign Ministry to contact Turkish authorities to clarify the circumstances and causes of the incident, it said.

Turkish authorities have not yet commented on the issue.

While hard evidence is still elusive, specific reports of Turkey’s growing role in the conflict began in January 2013, when Turkey’s leading newspaper Hurriyet reported that Greek authorities had found Turkish weapons on a ship heading to Libya after it stopped in Greece due to bad weather.

In December 2013, Egyptian media outlets reported that the Egyptian Customs Authority had monitored four containers full of arms coming from Turkey and believed to be heading to Libyan militants. 

In August 2014, Haftar ordered his forces to shell a ship loaded with weapons coming from Turkey and heading towards the Libyan port of Derna. 

A Libyan army official said in January 2015 that both Turkey and Qatar were supplying the “Dawn of Libya” militant group with arms through Sudan, in flagrant violation of the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya since 2011.

 Turkey has been accused of harbouring takfiri terrorists in Libya

In January 2017, al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia militant group said its leader Mohammed al-Zahawi had died at a Turkish hospital, where he was receiving treatment for “an injury sustained in the battles of Benghazi.” His body was sent back to the north-western Libyan city of Misrata for burial, reports said.