Arms Proliferation from Libya: A terrible headache for neighboring countries
By Faraj Aljarih
The security services in Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) continued their campaigns to pursue organized crime gangs that profess all kinds of smuggling, especially weapons, and drugs, and dealt them a new blow, by seizing large quantities of weapons that were about to be smuggled to Egyptian territory.
The campaign, which is described as the largest of its kind in the last 10 years, began with a raid on a neighborhood where drugs are sold openly in the city of Benghazi. This ignited what looked like a short street war between drug dealers and the army and police forces, followed by a campaign to collect unlicensed uncontrolled weapons. the campaign has achieved satisfactory results so far, according to a statement and photos issued by the Ministry of the Interior.
Last Monday, the Security Directorate of the Libyan city of Tobruk, the largest city close to the border with Egypt, announced the seizure of large quantities of dangerous weapons south of the city before they were to be smuggled into Egyptian territory through the desert oasis of Al Jaghbub.
The Directorate media office showed a video clip of the large quantities of weapons. In a press conference, Brigadier General Sami Idris, Director of Tobruk Security, described the confiscated weapons as “specific and dangerous.”
“The confiscated weapons are unconventional and are not of the types usually handled by individuals, such as rifles and machine guns. These are weapons usually used by terrorist organizations, and this is left to specialists in this field.” Brigadier General Idris said.
“The seized weapons were intended to be smuggled into Egypt, but information received from the Jaghbub police station indicated that there were strange movements in the northeast of the area, prompting the security forces to move and monitor the place. After gathering intelligence information, it was found that there were weapons hidden in the area in the desert in preparation for smuggling,” he added.
The Brigadier pointed out that “despite the security coordination regarding securing the borders between Egypt and Libya, which results in many seizures, the matter requires a greater exchange of intelligence information between the two parties, in order to eliminate the phenomenon of arms smuggling across the borders.”
Repercussions of the Libyan chaos
Over the past decade, Egypt has suffered serious security repercussions due to the security chaos and political crises in Libya, which is linked to it by a long border strip that extends for nearly 1,050 kilometers. This long distance makes it difficult to monitor the increasing activity of arms and drug smuggling gangs between the two countries, which has long been a terrible headache for the Egyptian authorities.
The weakness of the security services in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi led to a lack of joint control over the borders of the two countries. This matter played a role in the growth of organized crime in its various forms, such as smuggling weapons, drug and human trafficking, and so on.
Libyan journalist Moataz Belaid believes that “the growing activities of cross-border gangs require greater movement and more accurate and comprehensive coordination between the Libyan and Egyptian authorities. This is if the authorities really want to stop this dangerous threat to their security and the security of the region.”
He pointed out that “it is not possible to limit the activity of these gangs unilaterally, especially to two countries such as Libya and Egypt that are linked by geographical proximity, a common history and social contacts, which entails common security, economic and political interests. The instability of either of them constitutes an extended and direct effect on the other.”
Flow in every direction
Egypt is not the only country that suffers from the smuggling of Libyan weapons into its territory. Rather, this issue has become a common crisis for all neighboring countries, and it has played a fundamental role in creating the worsening security crises in recent years in Sahel–Saharan countries.
Last year, the security services in these countries seized huge quantities, which confirmed the increase in arms smuggling operations from Libya. Among the most prominent of these operations is the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, which is deployed between Sudan, Egypt, Libya, and Chad. The Force seized 3,638 rounds of Goryunov and 357 rounds of Dushka on a smugglers’ vehicle. They were among the Russian weapons deployed in Libya.
Later in the same year, the Nigerian army seized weapons destined for Boko Haram, including anti-aircraft missiles.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune warned about the increase in security risks emanating from Libya. “The state of instability experienced by the African Sahel region is due to the deterioration of the situation in the eastern neighbor of his country.”
“Things would not have reached this situation if we had been assisted in implementing the Algiers Agreement of 2015 aimed at calming the situation in the region,” Tebboune added in an interview with Le Figaro. He stressed that “the deterioration of the situation in neighboring Libya helped the transfer of heavy weapons towards the African Sahel region, which led to the deterioration of the security situation in the region.”
Weapon collection campaign
For its part, the Libyan security authorities in the city of Benghazi and Cyrenaica took a step, the first of its kind in the country, to collect weapons that are widely spread in the streets, and now pose a threat to all Libyans themselves before the regional countries.
The internal Security Services of the Cyrenaica authorities launched a campaign that began by deploying a number of vehicles for detecting weapons and ammunition in a number of neighborhoods in the city. This resulted in the seizure of hundreds of light and medium weapons.
“Many firearms were seized during the campaign to uncover unlicensed weapons in Benghazi.” the Presidency of the Internal Security Services said in a statement. “The campaign is continuing, and it is scheduled to include homes at a later stage,” it stressed.
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior in Cyrenaica, Faraj Iqaim, warned that “those who refuse to hand over their weapons to the nearest military camp or directorate will be referred to the Anti-Terrorism Prosecution.”
“The campaign will start extensively after a seven-day deadline. We have formed a committee that includes the Libyan National Army and the Ministry of Interior, with the help of trained dogs and advanced weapons detection devices,” Iqaim explained.