Africa Fears Turkish Arms Smuggled through Libya May Fall in Wrong Hands

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently warned that the chaos and spread of arms in Libya may negatively impact security in Africa as a whole.

His remarks raised concerns among experts that the weapons smuggled into Libya, namely from Turkey, may fall in the wrong hands in Africa, especially terrorist groups.

Buhari said that the weapons are already in possession of “terrorists and criminals” and have been so since the fall of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.

Head of the defense and national security committee in the east-based Libyan parliament, Talal al-Mayhoub told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ankara has sent a “massive” amount of arms to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Some of these weapons may have already fallen in the hands of terrorist groups in neighboring countries, he added.

The United Nations had previously estimated that some 29 million pieces of arms are possessed by militias and regular civilians in Libya.

Meanwhile, Jamal Shalouf, head of the Silvium Foundation for Studies and Research in Libya, said that Turkey has transformed Libya into a “transit point for covertly sending weapons to several parties in Africa.”

He accused Ankara of abusing the military deal it signed with the GNA in 2019 to further these operations.

A recent report by the Silvium Foundation found that Turkey has carried out 172 military shipments to western Libya from March to December 2020. Forty of these shipments took place after the GNA and Libyan National Army (LNA) signed a ceasefire in October.

The majority of flights from Turkey to Libya have been made by airbuses that can carry as much as 37 tons in cargo, the report added.

No one can really imagine that such vast amounts of weapons were used in the fighting between the GNA and LNA, which had effectively come to a halt in May, it continued.

So, it is more than likely that the weapons have been sent to groups that Turkey had previously cooperated with in Syria, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, both of which target French forces deployed in the region.

Moroccan political researcher Abdul Fattah Naoum described Turkish activity in the Sahel and Sahara as “suspicious”.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “After ISIS was weakened in Syria and Iraq, Turkey shifted its attention to Libya, taking advantage of the chaos there. It focused on striking alliances with militias in western Libya, specifically those affiliated with the Muslims Brotherhood, to further its goals in Africa.”

Ankara has succeeded in transforming Libya into a transit point for the movement of extremists from the eastern Mediterranean region to Africa, in coordination with militias in Africa, he continued. Turkey has been able to employ its intelligence in communicating with groups in the Sahel and Sahara regions and incite the people against French troops deployed there.