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29 Jun, 2019 20:52

Pentagon investigating how Javelin missiles ended up with Libyan militants

Pentagon investigating how Javelin missiles ended up with Libyan militants

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into how a cache of American-made missiles ended up in the hands of the Libyan National Army – a military group vying to depose the US and UN-supported government in Tripoli.

The stockpile of Javelin anti-tank missiles –four shoulder-fired units that cost more than $170,000 each– was discovered in the city of Gharyan, after a government counteroffensive captured the town from the LNA several days ago.

The US-made missiles, along with Chinese-made laser-guided artillery shells, were shown to journalists by forces linked to the Tripoli government. Markings on their containers indicate that the Javelins were initially sold by Washington to the United Arab Emirates in 2008. 

Produced by defense giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, the FGM-148 Javelin uses infrared guidance to arc a missile into the air and destroy a tank from above while its user remains safe behind cover. It can destroy all main battle tanks fielded worldwide.

How the missiles ended up in the hands of General Khalifa Haftar’s LNA is still unclear, though the UAE has backed his claim to power in Libya. The Pentagon is investigating the find, according to the New York Times.

If the UAE supplied the weapons to Haftar’s forces, the move would likely be a violation of its end-user agreement with the US, as well as a United Nations arms embargo.

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American weapons have often found their way into the hands of Washington’s enemies around the world. Under the eye of the Trump administration, American arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE reportedly made their way to “al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen,” a report in February found. Under Barack Obama, US weapons intended for so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria were quickly sold on the black market, pilfered by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) or al-Nusra jihadists.

These weapons included mine-resistant vehicles, wire-guided TOW missiles, and rifles.

As the US announced its investigation into the Libya seizure, General Haftar’s forces launched airstrikes against Gharyan on Friday night. Recapturing the city would put the LNA back within striking distance of Tripoli, 100km to the north.

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