Threat of Libya arms proliferation is real: UK

Libya was believed to have about 20,000 of the missiles in its arsenals before civil war began in March.

Last Updated: Oct 27, 2011, 23:53 PM IST

London: Britain takes the threat of weapons
proliferation in Libya very seriously and is working to ensure
that missing weapons stockpiled by the late authoritarian
leader Muammar Gaddafi don`t end up in the wrong hands, a
military official said on Thursday.

It`s widely known the late Libyan leader had invested
heavily in shoulder-launched missiles, Britain`s Chief of
Joint Operations Air Marshal Stuart Peach said, but he does
not know how many missiles are unaccounted for.

"We`re trying to get to the bottom of what might be there
and what might not be there, what might be claimed to be
there," Peach told reporters. "We need to be careful about
where these things end up and into whose hands they end up."

The UK government said earlier this week that a team from
the UK is helping deal with the issue of surface-to-air
missiles, some called MANPADS, and small arms that have gone
missing from weapons stockpiles.

Libya was believed to have about 20,000 of the missiles -
known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS - in its
arsenals before civil war began in March and there are strong
concerns that thousands have gone missing and could end up in
the hands of terrorists.

Peach conceded there are "more than hundreds" but said
there has not yet been access "to the precise bookkeeping"
from the Gaddafi era that would allow a more accurate
estimate. He said Britain is trying to work with Libya`s
National Transitional Council to secure the weapons.

"We`re on the case and we`re working with the Libyan
government to do something about it," he said. "Those weapons
in the wrong hands are lethal."

He declined to speculate on what terrorist groups could
seek access to such weapons, citing arms proliferation as "a
pretty murky business."

PTI