UK personnel help secure man-portable air defence systems in Libya

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Five thousand Libyan man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and components have been secured, disabled or destroyed by joint Libyan, American, French and UK teams. The personnel also inspected more than 1 600 bunkers in Libya.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) personnel deployed in Libya have returned to the UK, after first deploying to Benghazi in August last year. Since then the civilian and military personnel have operated from Misrata and Tripoli.

Having inspected the majority of the former Gaddafi regime’s ammunition storage areas, and following the use and destruction of thousands of MANPADS during last year’s conflict, the team has concluded that most of the remaining MANPADS are likely to be under the control of regional military councils and militias, the UK Ministry of Defence announced.

The UK will therefore support the Libyan authorities and the UN as they implement a comprehensive disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme to bring the remaining systems back under the control of central government and undertake broader work to ensure the destruction of conventional weapons, including MANPADS, unexploded ordnance and mines.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said that, “Following the fall of the Gaddafi regime, the security and counter-proliferation of man-portable surface-to-air missiles became an immediate priority, both for us and Libya’s National Transitional Council. We acted swiftly and now we can see the positive results of having done so.
“The weapons found and secured could be dangerous in the wrong hands. I pay tribute to the British experts who carried out this challenging work, as well as the international partners they worked alongside. I also welcome the next phase in this programme, which will see Libya take forward its own conventional weapons destruction programme including mine clearance and dealing with unexploded ordnance.”

As well as financing this work, the UK has provided £1.4 million and a civilian expert to support the provision of teams who will continue the inspection of ammunition storage areas. These contractor teams will also help clear unexploded ordnance within Libya’s towns and villages as well as in and around ammunition storage areas that were hit by NATO air strikes or in fighting between the National Transitional Council and pro-Gaddafi forces.

This continues the vital work done by the Royal Navy during the conflict to clear mines from Libya’s key ports and waterways to allow the free flow of civilian shipping.