Up to 5,000 Man-Portable Surface-to-Air Missiles (MANPADS) have been destroyed by an international team of ordnance specialists inLibya, according to an announcement from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The efforts to destroy the weapons commenced following the conclusion of the country’s civil war in October last year.
The existence of thousands of MANPADS in Libya became a major cause for concern regarding their potential transfer to guerrilla or criminal organisations.
Libya was thought to have considerable stocks of 9K31 Strela-1 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-9 Gaskin’), and 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-7 Grail’) MANPADS. US estimates spoke of around 20,000 missiles being in the inventory of the Libyan army. MANPADS were not thought to have been operational with the country’s air force which was also tasked with providing Ground-Based Air Defence.
The international MANPADS security team which included officials from the United States,France and Libya alongside the UK MoD personnel, estimated that thousands of the weapons had been destroyed during NATO air attacks on Libyan military targets.
Nevetheless there have been fears in Israel that some of the weapons may have already left Libya and subsequently found their way to the hands of guerrilla organisations operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.