September 29, 2011 (KHARTOUM) — First Vice-President Ali Osman Taha dismissed from Tripoli, where he was on a short visit, recent press reports about smuggling of Libyan weapons to the Sudanese territory after the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime.
- Sudan’s First Vice President Ali Osman Taha (L) and Libya’s de facto prime minister Mahmoud Jibreel take part in a news conference in Tripoli September 29, 2011. (Reuters)
Different reports alleged that some sophisticated weapons are missing from the stores of the Libyan army and their whereabouts are unknown.
Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou last Friday expressed worries about proliferation of Libyan weapons in the Sahel-Sahara before the UN General Assembly stressing that it might be used by terrorist groups to destabilize the region.
Also London based Daily Telegraph said Iranian Revolutionary Guards have stolen Russian-made SA-24 surface-to-air missiles from the abandoned arsenal in Libya and smuggled them to Sudan. This missile is seen as the equivalent of American Stinger which paralyzed the Russian air force in Afghanistan in the eighties and forced them to withdraw their troops.
The First Vice-President who was speaking in a joint press conference held in Tripoli with the deputy chairman of the National Transitional Council Mahamoud Gibreel denied these reports stressing that such claims aim to hamper the nascent but strong relation between Sudan and Libya.
"We agree that securing the border is an important issue and we are coordinating together in this respect to ensure the stability of borders and thwart any moves by rebel groups or uncontrolled elements," Taha further said.
The head of intelligence division in the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Abdulla Hanafi denied earlier this week the Daily Telegraph’s report. He further said Gaddafi’s fighters smuggled these weapons to Niger and Niamey’s government acknowledged that.
Sudan Armed Forces spokesperson Alsoarmi Khaled said smuggling large quantities of stolen missiles is impossible because it implies a coordination between Sudan and Iran and this had never happened.
NTC’s Gibreel discussed the smuggling of Libyan weapons with Niger’s President Issoufou in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly meetings last week. The two parties agreed to send a Libyan delegation to Niamey for discuss ways to stop arms smuggling.
Alluding to Niger, Gibreel told reporters that they have documented reports proving that Gaddafi attempted to illegally transport weapons to several neighboring countries. "By doing so, Gaddafi wants to confirm his claims that his regime’s demise would lead to spreading extremism and al-Qaeda in the region," he said.
However NTC’s second man was keen to add that First Vice-President Taha assured him of the inaccuracy of these reports about smuggling of weapons to Sudan.
Despite different international sanctions Khartoum’s government is part of an international coalition on Libya. Sudanese authorities were very supportive to the Libyan opposition accusing Gaddafi of supporting Darfur rebels.
However, western intelligence agencies expressed concerns saying that terrorists groups in the region, particularly al Qaeda and its internal connections might take advantage of instability in Libya.