By Callum Paton
Tripoli, 20 December 2013:
TheLibya Shield commander in Hun has said that weapons stores in the desert around . . .[restrict]Jufra lie at the mercy of gun runners and Al-Qaeda. He added that his forces are already stretched as they combat drugs trafficking, smuggling and illegal immigration.
Speaking to the Libya Herald at his headquarters in Hun, Ayed Rehel, said that he has just three all-terrain vehicles to patrol a region that contains some 120 weapons stores. These arsenals are supposedly under the control of military police in Jufra. However, Rehel said the dumps were poorly-protected and subject to raids.
He admitted that the soldiers protecting these arsenals “are old and lacking in energy and resources”. Rehel went on to explain that the dumps containing small arms were difficult to protect because they had “many access points”.
The commander, who leads a force of just 140 in the Jufra region said his men had not confronted Islamist groups operating through the desert. However, he said he could confirm that Libyans were selling arms, seized from nearby weapons caches, to Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, moving between Niger, Libya and Mali. These arms, he said, were for the most part, outdated Kalashnikovs.
There are a further 20 weapon stores in the area holding chemical weapons and the raw materials to produce them. These armaments, insisted Rehel, are secure and in the process of being destroyed by the United Nations with the cooperation of Libya Shield.
His force’s main job is pursuing illegal aliens and drug traffickers who cross over the frontiers with Egypt, Mali and Niger. In the last year, it had arrested 270 mostly agricultural workers from sub-Saharan Africa trying to make their way to Europe. He said that the illegals were detained by his men for around 24 hours, during which the detainees are given health checks, before being deported.
“Libyans move them [Illegal immigrants] from the border to Jufra for roughly LD 400.” Rehel explained, “Taxis and big vans will take them from Sebha to the north and Tripoli for LD 850 a person”.
The commander said that his force was spread far too thinly to be truly effective. He said that only extra manpower and the expertise that could only be provided by a highly-trained unit, could meet the challenges
He said that his organisation is more than ready to hand over power to the army and police. Until then, he said, he and his men will work with security forces.
“Then the young men in our force will then return to their studies and their work. Some even now spend four hours at work and then go off to study,” he added.
The Hun commander was optimistic but said that change in the area would take time.
“Before [the revolution] we were not free. We could not talk to the media. We could not express our ideas. We could not hold weapons,” he said, “It has been a good thing that the youth have been able to hold weapons and assert their will. But it will not be long before this will all disappear and life in Libya will return to normal.” [/restrict]