Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have received dozens of armoured vehicles and other arms, including Turkish-made Kirpi vehicles.
The vehicles arrived in Tripoli on 18 May aboard the Moldovan-flagged roll-on, roll-off vessel Amazon Giurgiulesti, which had sailed from the Turkish port of Samsun on 9 May. Some 20 Turkish-built Kirpi II 4×4 armoured personnel carriers and several Vuran vehicles were offloaded.
“The GNA is fostering its forces defending Tripoli with armoured vehicles, ammunition and quality weapons,” the pro-GNA coalition said on one of its Facebook pages.
The Kirpi (Hedgehog) is manufactured by Turkey’s BMC and is in service with the Turkish armed forces. It is based on the Israeli Hatehof (Carmor) Navigator protected vehicle. Ten soldiers and three crew can be carried. A V-shaped hull provides protection against landmines, while the armoured hull provides ballistic protection to STANAG 4569 Level 3. According to BMC, the Kirpi has a top speed of 100 km/h, range of 800 km and is powered by a Cummins diesel engine delivering 375 horsepower. Gross weight is 19 tonnes.
The Vuran is 4×4 tactical armoured vehicle unveiled in May 2015. It features a V-shaped hull for landmine and IED protection. The engine is located at the front of the vehicle, with the crew in the middle and troop compartment in the rear. A total of nine people can be carried.
It appears that all the Kirpi and Vuran vehicles delivered to Libya have been fitted with Aselsan’s Stabilized Advanced Remote Weapon Platform (SARP), with the vehicles armed with 12.7 mm heavy machineguns.
Images on social media also appear to show Al-Mared 8×8 armoured vehicles delivered to Libya, although this cannot be confirmed. The Al-Mared infantry fighting vehicle is manufactured by Jordan’s King Abdullah Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) and is based on an 8×8 Tatra truck chassis with an armoured hull that provides ballistic protection up to STANAG 4569 Level 3. A V-shaped armoured hull provides protection against an 8 kg mine blast under the wheels. The vehicle can carry eight soldiers and two crew.
Several Libyan sources claimed that the Amazon Giurgiulesti also transported Stinger surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided missiles and Bulgarian MG-M1 machineguns, but these claims have not been confirmed.
Earlier this month, a Tripoli government spokesman said his administration was talking to its ally Turkey to obtain “anything that is needed to stop the assault,” by forces allied to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) against Tripoli, including military and civilian help.
The LNA, which is allied to a rival administration in eastern Libya, launched an offensive to control Tripoli in early April. As the fighting drags on, 75,000 people have fled their homes and 126 civilians have been killed, according to the latest UN figures.
Last week the LNA claimed that Turkish-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were being used to carry out attacks against the forces it has deployed to capture Tripoli.
Since 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt have provided the LNA with military equipment such as aircraft and helicopters, helping Haftar to gain the upper hand in Libya’s eight-year conflict, according to previous UN reports.
Turkey and Qatar are at loggerheads with the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia over several regional issues including support for the Muslim Brotherhood.