A recent report reveals that the massive arms stockpiles of former Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi are making their way to foreign-sponsored militants in Syria.
The New York Times
reported on Friday that the evidence collected in Syria together with flight-control data and interviews with militia members, smugglers, militants, analysts and officials in several countries attest to the fact that a great deal of effort, spearhead and financed by Qatar, is underway to transport arms from Libya to Syrian anti-government gunmen.
The report further noted that Qatari C-17 cargo planes have landed at least three times in Libya this year, including flights from Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli on January 15 and February 1 as well as another that departed Benghazi on April 16.
The aircraft would pick up a shipment of weapons each time. The munitions were then taken to the Turkish-Syrian border, and passed onto the Syrian militants.
Officials say the arms shipments from Libya to Syria principally appear to be the work of armed groups in the North African country rather than the weak central government in Tripoli.
Fawzi Bukatef, a former revolutionary commander who has recently been appointed as Libya’s ambassador to Uganda, said Libyan militiamen have been shipping weapons to Syrian militants for more than a year.
“They collect the weapons, and when they have enough they send it,” he said. “The Libyan government is not involved, but it does not really matter.”
Earlier this week, British-Libyan arms dealer Abdul Basit Haroun said that weapons reach Syria not only by numerous charted flights, but also on ships and disguised as humanitarian aid.
"The authorities know we are sending guns to Syria," Haroun said. "Everyone knows."
Libyan lawmaker Tawfiq Shehabi also said that the Tripoli government tacitly supports the activities of dealers like Haroun.
The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.
Damascus says the West and its regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants.
In an interview broadcast on Turkish television in April, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that if the militants take power in Syria, they could destabilize the entire Middle East region for decades.
“If the unrest in Syria leads to the partitioning of the country, or if the terrorist forces take control… the situation will inevitably spill over into neighboring countries and create a domino effect throughout the Middle East and beyond,” he stated.