United Nations experts are investigating missile strikes near Libya’s capital that were fired likely using Chinese-made drones and point to possible involvement by the United Arab Emirates, a confidential report shows.
The April 19-20 missile attack on the southern suburbs of Tripoli was carried out as forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar battled to seize the capital from the UN-recognized government.
A UN panel of experts said in the report to the Security Council, a copy of which was seen by AFP, that it had examined photographs of missile debris and had identified the weapon as a Blue Arrow air-to-surface missile, which has not been used in Libya before.
The Chinese-made missile is only in use in three countries – China, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates – and is paired with the Chinese-made Wing Loong drone.
“Probable use of Wing Loong UAV variants by the LNA, or by a third party in support of the LNA,” – Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army – is under investigation by the panel, according to the report sent to the council Thursday.
The panel added that it was “almost certain” that the missiles were not directly supplied by the manufacturer or by China to Libya. It has written to China to request information that could help identify the suppliers.
The experts said the use of the drones was “likely a recent non-compliance of the arms embargo as the weapon system reported on has not been identified in Libya before,” the report said.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seen as key supporters of Haftar, praising his battlefield successes against the Islamic State group and other extremists in Libya.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres renewed his call for a ceasefire and for an end “to foreign interference to allow Libyans to be able to once again come together” to find a political solution.
Haftar launched his offensive to seize Tripoli on April 4 but his push appears to have stalled after militias backing the government in Tripoli put up strong resistance.
The Security Council remains divided over how to respond to the upsurge in fighting, with Russia refusing to condemn Haftar and the United States re-thinking its strategy.
The panel presented an interim report after a key expert, Tunisian-German national Moncef Kartas, was arrested in Tunisia on suspicion of spying for unnamed “foreign parties.”
Kartas, who was looking into illegal arms shipments to Libya in violation of the embargo, was arrested on March 26, less than 10 days before Haftar launched his offensive.
The arms embargo was imposed on Libya in 2011 as the country descended into chaos that led to the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.