8 countries involved
A proxy war of several large countries has long been raging in Libya. Some of them have apparently teamed up to form a secret mission, which has now been blown up.
The confused conflict in Libya has long become a proxy war for a number of influential countries. A secret mission of private Western forces exposed by UN experts – directed from the United Arab Emirates – now illustrates how the chaotic country is increasingly becoming a game ball in the international power struggle.
It is about dubious security companies supporting a Libyan warlord, smuggled helicopters and planned attacks on ships in the Mediterranean. The German Press Agency was able to view the almost 80-page confidential report.
Scientists were private soldiers
At the end of June 2019, at least 20 people boarded a Turboprop-type cargo aircraft in Amman, Jordan. They come from Australia, France, Malta, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. They are officially on behalf of science and are supposed to carry out “geophysical and hyperspectral investigations” in Jordan on behalf of Jordan. But the UN report calls it a “cover-up story”. According to the information, they are members of private military companies, and their plan is far less peaceful.
Your destination is Benghazi in the east of the civil war country. Benghazi is the stronghold of the powerful General Chalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli in the west more than a year ago and wants to overthrow the country’s internationally recognized unitary government there. His allies include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia, France and Egypt. Again and again there were reports of arms delivery. A recent UN report concluded that there were up to 1200 paramilitaries from a Russian security company in the country.
Mission: intercept Turkish weapons
But Haftar’s march on Tripoli got stuck, which was also due to the foreign support for the unity government: Prime Minister Fajis Al-Sarradsch has Italy, Qatar and Turkey on his side. Undisguised arms deliveries from Ankara, despite an applicable UN embargo across the country, are well documented.
This is where the flown-in forces come into play, which the experts expressly do not call “mercenaries”. They should intercept the replenishment of weapons from Turkey. “The panel believes that one goal of Project Opus was to provide (Haftar) with the ability to interrupt the sea route for weapons from Turkey to the unity government in Tripoli.” This was also confirmed by an evaluated conversation between the parties involved: it stated that the task was “to enter and search through enemy supply ships”. There was also talk of a “maritime attack group”.
Equipped with machine guns
According to the experts, the planning of the secret operation was carried out primarily by companies based in the United Arab Emirates – the “Lancaster6” and “Opus Capital Asset” reports highlighted in particular. Six of them were procured in South Africa in mid-June 2019, six of them were of the “Super Puma” type and three Aérospatiale SA 341, and were first brought to Botswana by land and then flown to Benghazi.
At the same time, thousands of kilometers away: According to the report, “Opus Capital Asset” rented two military inflatables for a daily rate of 5000 euros for a total of 90 days at the southern tip of Europe in Malta. Like the helicopters, they should therefore be equipped with machine guns. On June 27, the boats were brought to Benghazi.
15 hours across the Mediterranean
Everything was ready when the forces landed in the Libyan city in late June with the cargo plane. In the south of Benghazi, they are said to have been accommodated in a spacious residential complex, protected by a local militia. But on July 2, less than a week after their arrival, their leader suddenly stopped the operation. In the evening, the group boarded the two rubber boats in the port of Benghazi, one of them had to be left behind due to damage. After a 15-hour night drive across the Mediterranean, she arrived in Valetta, Malta.
The background remains puzzling even for the experts: “The committee has not yet determined the reason for the evacuation and the leaving of assets in Libya.” But a lawyer had already been available for the group in Malta, and also a new cover-up story: the people were oil workers and had to leave Libya as quickly as possible because of unrest.
At least eight countries involved
The report leaves open who was ultimately responsible for the “Project Opus”. The United Nations’ mission to the United Arab Emirates initially left an email unanswered asking for its opinion. “Lancaster6” and “Opus Capital Asset limited” also did not initially respond to such requests.
According to the report, the operation was planned and carried out in at least eight countries: the Emirates, Jordan, Malta, Libya, Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the USA. At least ten companies from three countries – the Emirates, the British Virgin Islands and Malta – were involved. Another company in South Africa is said to have disguised the identity of the masterminds.