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Abandoned Libyan weapons fuel insecurity

Abandoned Libyan weapons fuel insecurity
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The list of incidents is lengthening; bombs at government facilities and official buildings, kidnappings, robbery and assassinations of former members of the Gaddafi regime. Violence has escalated in recent days, proving that the situation in Libya is still far from “calm”.

The newly elected national congress and the new government has an enormous task ahead to restore stability and security in the country. It must also secure its borders, which currently leak weapons to neighbouring conflicts, and eager, civil-war hardened mercenaries, heading for Syria and elsewhere.

A large number of weapons still in the hands of civilians have become the top security challenge for Libya, post-Gaddafi.

Arms appear in unexpected places, like a hotel in Benghazi, once a favourite of foreign reporters. 10 kilos of explosives were defused in its basement. A few days before, 40 kilos of home-made bombs were found in Bengahzi’s police headquarters.

The National Transitional Council has not been able to integrate or disarm former rebels who fought against Gaddafi’s regime.

They have formed heavily-armed militias who have occupied the vacuum left by the army and now “make the law” in the country.

Arms and explosives looted from former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals are easily available.

Furthermore, many people do not want to give up their weapons, ranging from pistols and machine guns to bullets and rocket propelled grenades. It is, they say, a matter of “self-protection”.

Another worrying factor is the quantity of missiles and shells that are still missing.

Arms dumps can be found easily all over the country, outside unsafe bunkers, in the cities, museums or in the countryside. None are guarded. They represent a danger for the civil population, a Harvard University report warned at the start of this month. Apart from the risk of explosion, there is also the temptation to collect and sell arms for some easy but risky cash.

In fact, arms trafficking is a flourishing business at the Libyan borders with Tunisia and Algeria. Libyan arms have been found in cars stopped by the Tunisian police, and in Mali. Libya’s interim authorities have asked for international help to deal with the problem.