Misrata force accused of trying to seize suspect Turkish military vehicles held in Khoms port – Al Marsad

Libya, 7 February 2019 – A military unit from Misrata tried to force its way into Khoms port on Wenesday and remove the nine military vehicles discovered on Monday and suspected of having been illegally imported from Turkey.

According to a senior official in the port’s customs department, the group claimed that they had been ordered by the Attorney General’s office in Tripoli to transfer the vehicles to the capital. But when customs contacted the Attorney-General’s office they were told that there had been no such order.

The official, who did not to disclose his name for security reasons, said that the group belonged to the Central Region Support Force, and that it was directly linked to the Presidency Council’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

To prevent the vehicles being removed, containers were placed in front of the port gates by armed guards. As a result the port is temporarily closed.

There were reports of some shooting at the gates, but this has not been confirmed.

The customs officer also divulged that preliminary investigations indicated that the person importing the vehicles was an established car dealer who regularly used Khoms port to import vehicles.

There are suggestions in Tripoli that the vehicles were destined for the city’s Special Deterrence Force (Rada) and  the Nawasi Brigade and that the Central Bank of Libya had processed payment for them by drawing on the account of the Interior Ministry but without its knowledge and approval.

The Interior Ministry is reported to have demanded that the Attorney General investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, the Tripoli Protection Force (TPF) yesterday dispatched a formal request to the Attorney General to open an investigation into the shipment.

In a copy obtained by Almarsad from the Attorney General’s office it started by expressing its deepest respect and appreciation of the office for representing the rule of law and the prestige of the country. It then expressed the hope that it open “an urgent and immediate” investigation into the shipment of weaponry and armoured vehicles seized at the port of Khoms by customs officers, and which had come from Turkey and destined for an unknown recipient.

“Since these acts are criminalized under Libyan law and are punishable because they are the cause of widespread murder and organized crime, especially if they fall into the hands of murderous groups, as happened in the war in south Tripoli, we hope you will open an investigation as to who is responsible.”

 

In its request to the Attorney-General, the TPF expressed its hope that those behind the repeated deals involving arms coming from Turkey would be identified, especially since the media had been told by some officials that weapons seized at the port included pistols, silencers and machine guns that did not pose a threat to the ordinary citizens.

“We have the confidence of the Attorney-General to initiate investigations into all these crimes.”

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