Italian Police Discover Qatari Missile in Raid on a Neo-Nazi Fascist Group – Al Marsad

A missile that once belonged to the Qatari Armed Forces has been seized by Italian authorities. Reportedly, the missile was sold by Qatar to an unnamed country in 1994. The missile was about to be resold by Forza Nouva, a neo-nazi fascist group to an unidentified foreign government before the Italian security forces raided their cells.

[Libya, 17 July 2019] – The Italian General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) seized an arsenal of weaponry ranging from bolt-action rifles and automatic weapons to a “combat-ready” air-to-air missile from an Italian neo-Nazi Fascist group in a series of raids carried out by the Carabinieri in Milan, Varese, Forli and Novara. In a statement to the BBC, police described the missile as “in perfect working order.” 

According to The Drive the missile is a French-made, semi-active radar-seeking Matra Super 530F, contained within a casing that clearly identifies it as purchased by the Qatar Armed Forces in 1980. That year the Qatari government purchased 14 Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jets from France with armaments, though Qatar’s F1s have largely been superseded in active service by Mirage 2000 jets that fire the newer MICA missiles.

The Matra Super 530F missile’s casing clearly identified it as purchased by the Qatar Armed Forces.

The Guardian reported that the Italian police said the missile lacked its explosive charge but could be easily re-armed by munitions specialists.

Italian authorities also seized neo-Nazi propaganda paraphernalia and made three arrests. La Repubblica reported that the raids were the product of a year-long investigation into Italian nationals who had fought in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

Italian police showing the size of the Qatari-supplied missile to the press.

Italian authorities claimed the suspects were trying to sell the missile for about $529,000 (400,000 Euros), with Turin Police Chief Giuseppe De Matteis stating that the seizure had “few precedents for the quality of the weapons and their violent potential.” La Repubblica named those arrested as 60-year-old former customs inspector and neo-Nazi fascist Forza Nuova militant Fabio Del Bergiolo, 51-year-old Fabio Bernardi, and 42-year-old Swiss national Alessandro Monti.

Pictures and video released by the authorities of the items seized show a wide array of contemporary and more dated European, American, and Eastern European small arms, including AK- and AR-15/M16-type rifles of unknown origins, Austrian and Czech submachine guns, and more. This is “a seizure with few precedents for the quality of the weapons and their violent potential,” Turin Police Chief Giuseppe De Matteis said, according to La Repubblica.

However, the surprising item was the Super 530F. Matra first introduced the medium-range, semi-active radar-seeking Super 530F in 1979 specifically for the Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jet. The missile was an evolution of the short-range R.530, which first entered French service in 1962 and used a mix of infrared and semi-active radar guidance.

The missile’s transit case has markings that say it was originally sold to Qatar as part of a contract signed in 1980. It’s not clear when Matra manufactured this particular missile or where and how the arrested individuals acquired it.

Qatar bought 14 F1s, along with weapons to go with them, in 1980. The missile reportedly remains in Qatari inventory, along with the Super 530D, though the country’s newer Mirage 2000 fighter jets, which it obtained in the 1990s, now primarily carry newer MICA missiles from European missile consortium MBDA.

Personnel prepare a Qatari Mirage F1 for a mission during the first Gulf War in 1991.

La Repubblica reported that police had been tipped off the weapon after intercepting calls to and from Del Bergiolo about selling it. The group reportedly was offering it for 470,000 Euros—just over $529,100 at the rate of exchange at the time of writing—and that one of the buyers included “a foreign government official.”

It’s not clear what government entity might be in the market for a single air-to-air missile that is compatible only with a limited number of aircraft. After 40 years and numerous export sales around the world, the Super 530F is likely of diminished intelligence value.

Possible Links to Libyan Militias?

Some military experts speculate that perhaps Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), which operates a very small number of Mirage F1s, could have been one of the buyers interested in the Qatari missile in the hands of the Forza Nuova for its Islamist militias. The GNA has been in desperate need of weapons and other military equipment to stave off the advances of the Libyan National Army (LNA).

In May 2019, the LNA shot down one of the GNA’s F1s near Tripoli and captured its pilot, who turned out to be a U.S. Air Force veteran. The details about how Jamie Sponaugle, who had been a maintenance officer during his service, but earned a private pilots license after leaving the Air Force, came to be an apparent mercenary pilot in Libya remain murky. The LNA released him to in June 2019 as a gesture of goodwill to the US for their efforts against terrorism.

There could be secondary market beyond foreign governments for the missile, including certain specific components, such as its radar seeker. The weapon does also contain a roughly 70-pound high-explosive warhead.

It’s unclear what will happen now to any of the items seized by the Italian authorities. So far, there are no reports that Qatar has asked for their missile back.

Though it has been widely reported that the arrests that led to the seizure of the Super 530F missile were the result of an investigation into groups tied to Russian-back separatists in Ukraine, the actual official press release regarding the raids says they were the product of monitoring far-right Italian groups supporting the other side.

As Al Marsad has reported on several occasions the Qatari-Turkish-Ukrainian supply chain of arms, equipment and personnel via private Ukranian aircrafts, continues to reinforce Islamist groups in Libya affiliated to the GNA. It is interesting that the Bayraktar killer drones, which were operating in Tripoli until they were destroyed by the Air Force of the Libyan National Army (LNA), were actually first tested in the Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko during the official delivery ceremony of the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (2019)

The Italian authorities are still conducting further investigations and we expect more information as the story and the network links unfold.