Al-Qaeda could get their hands on Libyan missiles, officials warn
Hundreds of hand-held ground to air, heat seeking missiles lying in unguarded weapons depot in Ajdabiya could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda terrorists, Human Rights Watch has warned.06 Apr 2011
Staff from the human rights charity inspected 35-bunker weapons dump on the eastern outskirts of the Libyan city, which is currently in the hands of rebel forces, which Western intelligence agencies fear are infiltrated by Islamist terror groups.
Peter Bouckaert, a senior Belgian HRW official, found that no guards were defending the depot, allowing civilians to haul away munitions including hundreds of Soviet "Strela" SA-7 anti aircraft missiles.
"When ordinary civilians, even children, can walk into a weapons depot and remove surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down a civilian aircraft, you have a real problem," he said.
"Once they are fired, these weapons find the heat of jet engines. You can take out low-flying aircraft, including passenger jets taking off."
Mr Bouckaert fears that the chaos in the front line town means that the missiles have fallen into terrorist and referred to a previous 2002 al-Qaeda attempt to shoot down an Israeli jet in Mombasa with an SA-7 weapon.
"The missiles were simply there to be grabbed. Had I wanted, then I could have put one in our car and driven away," he said.
Western intelligence agencies are concerned that terrorists will benefit because the rebel Libyan transitional council is too busy fighting for survival to safeguard munitions depots in areas under its control.
As the Gaddafi regime lost control over eastern Libya last month, anti-government rebels and civilians gained access to massive military weapon and munitions depots, abandoned by government forces.
Human Rights Watch inspected 20 of 35 weapons bunkers in Ajdabiya, as well as heat seeking missiles were thousands of rockets, anti-tank weapons, guns and ammunition.