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Entries in Weapons (20)

Saturday
May042013

Amid New Reports of Massacres, Israel Strikes Syria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- Israeli warplanes struck weapons inside Syria that were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, American and Israeli officials say.

The attack, which reportedly took place Friday morning, was the second such strike this year, further raising fears that Syria's two-year civil war could spill over into neighboring countries.

News of the strike comes as graphic evidence emerges of what a watchdog group says are scores of deaths in fighting and mass executions by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in and around the coastal city of Baniyas.

Hundreds are reportedly fleeing amid fears of further sectarian-fueled violence.

The Israeli Prime Minister's office and military declined to comment on the strike, which is the standard response following a secret operation. Israel has repeatedly warned that it would not hesitate to act to prevent its enemies from getting their hands on weapons, particularly chemical weapons.

Syrian state media made no mention of the strike and Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said he was not aware of any attack.

In January, Syrian officials responded quickly when Israeli warplanes are believed to have targeted a convoy carrying Russian-made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles, which were also said to be bound for Hezbollah.

There was no outright claim of responsibility by Israel, but days after that strike, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "That is another proof that when we say something we mean it. We say that we don't think it should be allowable to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon."

A top Israeli defense official dismissed the confirmation of the Friday strike, but not the strike itself.

"I don't know what or who confirmed what, who are these sources?" asked Amos Gilad, a senior strategist in the ministry. "In my book only the [military] spokesperson unit is official."

There is no suggestion that any of the weapons struck allegedly were chemical weapons and Gilad said he believes Hezbollah doesn't want chemical weapons.

"Syria has large amounts of chemical weaponry and missiles. Everything there is under [regime] control," Gilad said, according to Israeli reports. "Hezbollah does not have chemical weaponry. We have ways of knowing.

"They are not keen to take weaponry like this, preferring systems that can cover all of the country [of Israel]," he added, referring to the estimated 60,000 rockets in Hezbollah's arsenal.

The State Department said today that is it "appalled" by reports of scores killed in the Sunni Muslim town of al Bayda, just south of Baniyas, by government forces and loyalist militiamen known as "shabiha" who largely belong to Assad's Alawite sect.

 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog group said at least 51 people, including women and children, were summarily executed on Thursday in al Bayda.

That was followed by reports of more deaths in the Ras-al-Nabaa neighborhood of Baniyas.

The SOHR said hundreds of Sunni families were fleeing south to the port city of Tartous to escape what they said was sectarian killing by the regime.

State television said there were operations in the area that "drove back several terrorist groups" and showed rows of weapons it said had been seized from rebels. Rebel groups led by extremist fighters had been mounting operations in that area.

Also on Saturday, Assad visited Damascus University to greet students and inaugurate a statue for student "martyrs" of the two-year conflict. A photo showed the Syrian president getting a warm reception from students reaching out their hands to greet him.

The display of confidence was his second public event this week: On May Day, he thanked workers at a Damascus power plant.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov132012

Iraq Reneges on Huge Arms Deal with Russia

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Iraq might be playing one important ally off another as it tries to stock up its military arsenal.

By all signs, Baghdad had a deal with Moscow last month to purchase $4.2 billion worth of weapons that included helicopters and surface-to-air missile systems.

However, Iraq announced over the weekend that the agreement was off, citing corruption concerns with Russia.

This all might be a ploy by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to negotiate a better deal since no specific allegation about graft was made.

Meanwhile, al-Maliki may be cozying up to the Russians to get Washington to move more quickly on signing new arms pacts with Baghdad.

According to Al Jazeera, the prime minister is not playing favorites, saying, "We buy weapons based on the needs that we feel we have."

Last month, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland downplayed any rift between the two countries, telling reporters that if all the pending military sales go forward, “it will be worth over $12.3 billion, so obviously our own military support relationship with Iraq is very broad and very deep."

Russia, on the other hand, is growing more desperate to sell arms since one of its main customers, Syria, is embroiled in a conflict that could seriously curtail business.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul232012

US Watchful Amid Chemical War Threats in Syria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite concerns that Syria's chemical and biological weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Sen. Diane Feinstein, is reassured -- for now.

"I think that we know where the chemical weapons are kept. There are a large number of sites. There is a large variety of chemical weapons. I think it's fair to say they are being watched carefully," she said.

Despite the violence so far, according to Sen. Feinstein, the Arab League, is hoping to get Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power gracefully.

"[I] think if he and his family leave governance, there is an opportunity to put something together," said Feinstein.

But unlike Libya, Sen. Feinstein told a Washington audience, there is no western-backed coalition that could take over if Assad leaves.

The State Department says it would be completely unacceptable for the Syrian government to use its chemical weapons on its own people.

"Any talk about any use of any kind of a weapon like that in this situation is horrific and chilling. They Syrian regime has a responsibility to the world, has a responsibility first and foremost to its own citizens to protect and safeguard those weapons," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Nuland has dismissed as a hypothetical any talk of Israel possibly getting involved in Syria to prevent chemical weapons from landing in the hands of extremists.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun202012

Russian Cargo Ship Bringing Weapons to Syria Turns Back

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Russian cargo vessel that was reported to be bringing arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military for its continued crackdown on rebel forces is heading back home.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague made the announcement on Tuesday to his House of Commons, adding, "We discourage anyone else from supplying arms to Syria.  We have had discussions with Russia about that specifically."

Last week, the U.S. said that the Russian cargo ship, MV Alaed, was on its way to Syria to supply al-Assad's forces with attack helicopters and munitions.

The turnaround came 24 hours after President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for talks at the G20 Summit in Mexico on ways to end the violence in Syria that has gone on for 15 months at a cost of between 12,000 and 14,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr032012

Gadhafi’s Mercenaries Spread Guns and Fighting in Africa

Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- When Libya’s dictator for more than four decades fell victim to the Arab Spring, Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s influence didn’t end.  It is now contributing to increased attacks by rebel groups, the arming of terrorists and a hunger crisis in other parts of Africa.

“This is a setback for the international community which has invested so much money in the past decade in democracy, peace, and security in Africa,” said Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru at the Institute for Security Studies based in Pretoria, South Africa.

After Gadhafi’s fall, thousands of his soldiers left the country with stockpiles of weapons, including machine guns, ammunition and shoulder-fired missiles.  Maru says at least 2,000 of them were mercenaries who returned to their native countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Nigeria.  Many have already returned to fighting.

In the West African country of Mali, when ethnic Taureg fighters returned from Libya well armed, it encouraged Taureg separatists to launch a new rebellion against the government in January.  While Gadhafi’s weapons were no match for the NATO forces that came to the rescue of Libyan revolutionaries, they were far superior to the weapons of the impoverished Malian army.  A mutiny by Mali’s out-gunned and frustrated soldiers turned into a coup d’etat when they stormed the Presidential Palace in March, erasing more than two decades of democratic rule.

In the chaos that has ensued after the coup, Taureg separatists in Mali have had more success than ever before.  On Sunday, they seized the last government holdout in the north, the legendary town of Timbuktu.  There is now concern a Taureg victory in Mali could inspire another rebellion in neighboring Niger.

“The Tauregs in Niger got funding from Gadhafi.  The government of Niger has been able to negotiate with them for peace, but for how long?  That is questionable,” said Maru.

Gadhafi’s fighters and weapons also streamed into other nearby countries in the Sahel region bordering the Sahara desert.  It is an area where a major al Qaeda affiliate has announced it acquired thousands of Gadhafi’s weapons.

“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world,” Mokhtar Belmokhar, a leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) told Mauritanian news agency ANI last November.

The proliferation of weapons in the Sahel comes at an especially bad time.  After another year of drought in parts of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, aid agencies say millions of people need urgent food assistance, but violence in the region makes it hard -- in some places impossible -- to help.

“Under these security conditions, we are not able to access the displaced who are living in extremely difficult conditions,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Fatouma Lejeune-Kabu about trying to help those forced to flee their homes in northern Mali.

The U.N. estimates about 130,000 people in Mali have been displaced by the fighting between Taureg rebels and the government army.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec192011

State Dept: No ‘Firm Evidence’ Libyan Anti-Aircraft Missiles Have Left Country

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Seeking to try to allay growing reports that Libya’s portable anti-aircraft weapons walked out of the country amid the chaos of the country’s NATO-supported civil war may not have been realized, a top U.S. State Department official claimed Monday.

“Thus far, we have not seen any firm evidence that they have left the country, but we are still obviously very concerned about it,” Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Schapiro, whose office has overseen efforts to track down and secure or destroy those weapons, told reporters.

Libya is believed to have stockpiled up to 20,000 of the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons known as MANPADs since the 1970s. Some of the weapons have heat-seeking capabilities and could be used to take down a commercial airliner. After this year’s NATO-led bombing campaign many, perhaps thousands, were destroyed and others got loose, sparking fears that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.

Schapiro didn’t say whether they may have fallen into the wrong hands within Libya, but regional al Qaeda leaders have suggested they have benefited from the instability there by scooping up those and other deadly weapons.

The State Department has been working with Libyan authorities to secure the weapons and destroy any that are not needed for the country’s defense. The U.S. has already invested millions of dollars in the effort. Schapiro visited Libya earlier this month where he said that so far the State Department has secured nearly 5,000 of the weapons.

The State Department believes many thousands more may have been destroyed when NATO planes bombed Moammar Gadhafi’s weapons depots. Their experts are now going to those sites to try to catalogue how many were there. It’s also unclear how many Gadhafi may have used or how many others may no longer be operational after years in storage.

The rest are believed to be in the hands of militias who looted some of the weapons caches during and after the war.

“The key now is convincing those who hold onto these weapons to turn them in and take them out of circulation.  And we were working with the Libyan authorities on the best way to do that,” Schapiro told reporters, adding that they are also in touch with the militias.

The State Department on Monday released its 10th annual report entitled “To Walk the Earth in Safety” on its efforts to destroy and clear conventional weapons like MANPADs and land mines around the world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

Missing Libya Missiles: UN Calls on Libya, Neighbors to Find Weapons

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- A resolution calling on Libya and its neighbors to secure unguarded Libyan weapons stockpiles and prevent terrorists from acquiring them was unanimously adopted Monday by the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council.

The resolution called on "Libyan authorities to take all necessary steps to prevent the proliferation of all arms […], in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles" to keep the weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African offshoot of the terror group. It also called upon neighboring nations to "consider appropriate measures to prevent the proliferation" of these weapons, but stopped short of suggesting concrete measures to help secure the munitions.

A U.N. Security Council diplomat told ABC News this resolution would allow greater international cooperation in securing the weapons and would put in place a reporting and tracking mechanism that would help better monitor the situation.

Since the fall of Tripoli in late August, multiple weapons depots with stockpiles of heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine guns and ammunition have been discovered unguarded by journalists and NGOs. The Gadhafi regime once had as many as 20,000 Russian surface-to-air missiles, and U.S. military contractors are now in Libya trying to find thousands that are unaccounted for.

In the past month, some of the SAMs have turned up in Egypt and at the Israeli border. Egyptian authorities say they have arrested weapons smugglers bringing the weapons east from Libya toward Israel. According to the Washington Post, so many of the weapons were being sold in Egyptian black markets that the price had dropped from $10,000 to $4,000 per weapon.

It would take only one of the shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, which have a range of two miles, to bring down a commercial aircraft.

In a report aired on ABC News last week, a month after U.S. officials told ABC News they were moving quickly to secure unguarded weapons in Libya, human rights investigators filmed a huge cache of unprotected weapons, including bombs, tank shells and dozens of surface-to-air missiles, in the city of Sirte.

"Anybody want a surface-to-air missile?" asks Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, in a video shot last week near where Moammar Gadhafi and his son Mutassim made their last stand. Though the U.S. is rushing more and more specialists to Libya in a race to find the weapons that have gone missing since the start of the Libyan uprising, Bouckaert beat them to Sirte.

Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News that there was "obviously" a race to find the weapons before they fall into the hands of terrorists, "and that's why we're deploying people as quickly as we possibly can." Shapiro said the U.S. plans to increase its presence on the ground from 10 teams of weapons specialists, or less than 35 people total, to 50 teams.

"We believe that based on our examination of the numerous sites that thousands of missiles were actually destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign," said Shapiro, "and [that another] thousand missiles have been disabled or damaged."

But Shapiro also said the U.S. still doesn't know how many of the 20,000 surface-to-air missiles once held by the Gadhafi regime are unaccounted for. "We're in the process of visiting sites and putting together the information about the scope of the problem," said Shapiro.

Last week, Bouckaert found dozens of Russian SA-7 missiles scattered across the ground in Sirte, along with empty crates.

"These facilities are still uncontrolled," said Bouckaert. "We could literally have come here with a convoy of 18-wheeler trucks and wheeled away whatever we wanted without even being noticed." Bouckaert says despite his warnings to the U.S. State Department and the CIA since February, real progress in securing the weapons has been slow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct272011

Libya: New Video Shows More Unguarded Surface-to-Air Missiles

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(SIRTE, Libya) -- A month after U.S. officials told ABC News they were moving quickly to secure unguarded weapons in Libya, human rights investigators have found a huge cache of unprotected weapons, including bombs, tank shells and dozens of surface-to-air missiles, in the city of Sirte.

"Anybody want a surface-to-air missile?" asks Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, in a video shot Sunday near where Moammar Gadhafi and his son Mutassim made their last stand. Though the U.S. is rushing more specialists to Libya in a race to find the massive stores of weapons that have gone missing since the start of the Libyan uprising, Bouckaert beat them to Sirte.

Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News that there was "obviously" a race to find the weapons before they fall into the hands of terrorists, "and that's why we're deploying people as quickly as we possibly can." Shapiro said the U.S. plans to increase its presence on the ground from 10 teams of weapons specialists, or less than 35 people total, to 50 teams.

"We believe that based on our examination of the numerous sites that thousands of missiles were actually destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign," said Shapiro, and [that another] thousand missiles have been disabled or damaged."

But Shapiro also said the U.S. still doesn't know how many of the 20,000 surface-to-air missiles once held by the Gadhafi regime are unaccounted for. "We're in the process of visiting sites and putting together the information about the scope of the problem," said Shapiro.

Libyans alerted by the U.S. reached the Sirte site found by Human Rights Watch on Thursday, according to Shapiro, and moved the missiles there "to a more secure location." Shapiro denied that the Libyans had gone to the site because ABC News planned to report on it, but said the U.S. had "immediately acted" on information provided by Human Rights Watch. He said it would have been difficult to get to Sirte earlier because there was still fighting in the city last week.

In September, Shapiro said the U.S. was "making great progress" in accounting for the Gadhafi regime's missing munitions, but that the U.S. did not have a clear picture of how many missiles it was attempting to track down. Just last week, during a visit to Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "I am pleased to announce that we are going to put even more money into helping Libya secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons."

In the past month, some of the Gadhafi regime's Russian-made surface-to-air missiles have turned up in Egypt and at the Israeli border. Egyptian authorities say they have arrested weapons smugglers bringing the weapons east from Libya toward Israel. According to the Washington Post, so many of the weapons were being sold in Egyptian black markets that the price had dropped from $10,000 to $4,000 per weapon.

It would take only one of the shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, which have a range of two miles, to bring down a commercial aircraft. On Sunday, Bouckaert found dozens of Russian SA-7 missiles scattered across the ground in Sirte, along with empty crates.

Bouckaert found unsecured weapons both in a warehouse on the outskirts of Sirte, and in a complex of 70 warehouses south of Sirte.

"These facilities are still uncontrolled," said Bouckaert. "We could literally have come here with a convoy of 18 wheeler trucks and wheeled away whatever we wanted without even being noticed."

Bouckaert says despite his warnings to the U.S. State Department and the CIA since February, real progress in securing the weapons has been slow.

He also said that on Thursday morning, U.S. weapons specialists told him they'd been instructed to take action on the SAMs in Sirte as soon as possible so that Assistant Secretary Shapiro would be able to say so in his interview with ABC News.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct132011

Missing Libya Missiles Find Their Way to Gaza Border

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Some of the thousands of surface-to-air missiles that have gone missing since the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Libya have now turned up just miles from the Israeli border.

U.S. officials say there were 20,000 Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles in Libya before the uprising, and thousands have disappeared in the looting of Moammar Gadhafi's arm caches. According to the Washington Post, many of those Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons are being sold in Egyptian black markets, and so many are available the price has dropped from $10,000 to $4,000.

Egyptian officials told the paper they have intercepted looted Libyan weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, missiles and artillery, on the road from Libya into Egypt, in black markets on the Sinai Peninsula, and in the smuggling tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza.

The heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, most of them shoulder-fired, have a range of two miles and would pose a threat to Israeli helicopters and planes on either side of the Israel-Gaza border.

Though Libya had an estimated 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles before the popular uprising began earlier this year, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News in September the government does not have a clear picture of how many missiles they're trying to track down.

A spokesperson told ABC News that the State Department "commend[s] Egyptian authorities" for seizing the missiles and other arms.

"[W]e are seeking additional information from Egyptian authorities as their investigations continue," said Noel Clay. "Egypt is one of several nations in the region where we have held discussions about potential conventional weapons proliferation from Libya in recent months. It is clear that the Egyptian government shares our concerns about weapons smuggling."

"Preventing the proliferation of these weapons is of international concern," said Clay. "We are committed to working with the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), Libya's neighbors, and the wider international community to build a coordinated approach to this shared security challenge."

U.S. government officials and security experts have long been concerned some of the thousands of heat-seeking missiles, along with smaller arms, could easily end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other terror groups.

"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee, said in September.

The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with a launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant's shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.

ABC News visited a massive weapons depot in Tripoli, and confirmed that the arms were unguarded and available to whoever could cart them away. Crates of weapons and ammunition, from AK-47 assault rifles to grenades to surface-to-air missiles, were forced open and their contents missing.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, told ABC News that "once these missiles go missing they are not that large and they can be easily hidden. It's very difficult to track them down. They can be moved across borders and can be very easily used.''

"Those are not weapons you want floating around this already volatile region," said Bouckaert.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct102011

US Expands Search for Weapons in Libya

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has expanded its search for thousands of dangerous, unaccounted for weapons in Libya to the tune of several million dollars and new search teams, a State Department spokesperson said.

"I'm frankly not in a position to speak to the sort of volume and scope of their success at the moment, but we are very, very committed to this effort," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Nuland said there are a total of nine Libyan search teams currently active in the war-torn nation, all with a single American representative. The U.S. government had initially put forward $3 million to assist in the effort to track down the weapons -- which could include thousands of shoulder-fired surface-to-air rocket launchers -- but has now increased its investment to $10 million.

Last month, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters the U.S. had a single government official, as well as five contractors, on the ground to deal with the weapons crisis.

Though Libya had an estimated 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles before the popular uprising began in February, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News in September the government does not have a clear picture of how many missiles they're trying to track down.

U.S. government officials and security experts have for weeks been concerned some of the thousands of heat-seeking missiles, along with smaller arms, could easily end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other terror groups.

"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee, said in September.

The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant's shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a trip to Libya more than six months ago. He took pictures of pickup truckloads of the missiles being carted off during another trip just a few weeks ago.

"I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want," said Bouckaert, HRW's emergencies director. "Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles."

Nuland said Friday it's too early to tell if the U.S. will expand the search beyond the nine teams in the future.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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