More Turkish weapons found smuggled into Libya – Al Marsad

Libya – Another massive cache of weapons smuggled from Turkey has been discovered at a Libyan port.

On Monday, 7 January, customs officials at Misrata port seized a 20-foot container loaded with over 20,000 8-mm handguns from Turkey. The discovery follows the one last month of some 3,000 Turkish-made 9-mm Beretta-style handguns plus other weapons and 2.3 million rounds of ammunition hidden in two containers in Khoms port. The containers had just been unloaded off a ship that had sailed from Turkey, the BF Esperanza. It departed immediately after landing its cargo.

In this latest attempt to smuggle Turkish arms into Libya, the guns were stashed behind boxes of household items and children’s toys, the intention clearly being to disguise the main purpose of the shipment. There were 556 boxes, each containing 36 weapons – a total of 20,016 guns.

According to a source in Misrata port, the latest discovery was thanks to customs and other officials increasing security checks on vessels to prevent smuggling of weapons and drugs, in particular from Turkey.

Following last month’s attempt to smuggle arms into Libya, this latest has prompted some diplomatic observers to express concerns that Turkey may be deliberately flooding Libya with weapons. Links are also being made with the walkout on 13 November from the Palermo conference on Libya by Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay.

Oktay and his delegation angrily pulled out because he had not been invited to a meeting on the side-lines of the conference attended by Presidency Council head Fayez and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar along with the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, the prime ministers of Italy, Russia and Algeria and France’s foreign minister. Oktay’s warning that that any meeting on Libya that excluded Turkey “would prove be counter-productive for the solution of this problem” was regarded at the time by several Libyan officials attending the Palermo conference as a threat of increased Turkish interference in Libya. Some specifically warned that Ankara would probably try to reinforce its Libyan political allies.

For its part, Turkey has denied any involvement in supplying arms to Libya. In Tripoli on 22 December, Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that arms smuggling did “not represent the policy or approach of the Turkish state”. He had flown to Libya to try and convince Sarraj and his foreign minister, Mohamed Siala, that Turkey had no hand in the matter after Sarraj had demanded an explanation. Khalifa Haftar’s response had been to demand that the UN Security Council condemn Turkey and set up an independent investigation.

Following their talks, Cavusoglu and Sarraj agreed to set up a joint Libya-Turkish investigation into the Khoms case. That move, though, took on a separate twist on Sunday when gunmen tried to assassinate the Libyan investigator, Captain Tariq Zriqait, as he returned home from Khoms to Zliten. The four would-be killers drove their vehicle in front of his and blocked his way, pointing their guns at him. In a move almost straight out of a Hollywood action thriller, he swerved onto farmland, escaped from his car and was then given cover by passers-by who had seen what had happened and then rushed over to help.

So far there has been no statement by the PC’s Government of National Accord about the weapons smuggled to Misrata, nor has the Turkish government said anything. Indeed, there has been no news so far on Turkey’s side of the investigation into the Khoms incident, despite Cavusoglu’s promise of action.

It is presumed that the Libyan investigation into the Khoms smuggling will be extended to cover the Misrata one, although doubts are being heard from some Libyan political activists as to whether the arms smuggling will be stopped at the Turkish end or the PC take stronger action on the matter.

In a separate development in Misrata port, customs officials on Sunday discovered eight tonnes of cannabis in two containers.