Algeria seizes missiles smuggled from Libya: source

Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:08am GMT
 

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian security forces have found a large cache of weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, which they believe were smuggled in from neighbouring Libya, a security source briefed on the discovery told Reuters on Saturday.

The find follows warnings from governments in the region that instability in Libya after the end of Muammar Gaddafi's rule is allowing weapons taken from Gaddafi's arsenal to fall into the hands of al Qaeda's north African branch and other insurgent groups across the Sahara desert.

The weapons cache was discovered in the desert about 60 km (40 miles) south of In Amenas, an energy-producing Algerian region near the border with Libya, said the source, who spoke to Reuters on condition on anonymity.

The source said the cache was located following a tip-off from a smuggler who had been arrested. He said it contained a "large quantity" of arms including the shoulder-launched missiles - a weapon which, in some variations, could be used to bring down an aircraft.

"This weapons seizure shows that the chaos in Libya is dangerous for the whole region," the source said.

There was no official confirmation of the discovery from the Algerian government and there was no way of independently verifying the source's account.

Western security experts tracking arms which have disappeared from Gaddafi's looted arms depots say the shoulder-fired missiles - also known as man-portable air defence systems, or MANPADS - are one of their biggest concerns because they could be used with relative ease by insurgent groups.

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A Libyan rebel fighter sits next to a missile launcher in the back of a truck in Al-Qawalish, Libya July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
 
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