The French defense ministry said Wednesday, July 10 that its missiles had been found on a base used by forces loyal to Libya’s Khalifa Haftar, but it denied supplying them to the rebels which would be a breach of a U.N. arms embargo.
It said the U.S.-made Javelin missiles found in a camp south of Tripoli had been given to French forces operating in the war-torn country, but were defective and were meant to have been destroyed.
But it denied supplying them to Haftar, saying French forces operating in the war-torn country had lost track of them after they were judged to be defective.
“Damaged and out-of-use, these weapons were being temporarily stocked in a warehouse ahead of their destruction,” the statement said. “They were not transferred to local forces.”
The anti-tank missiles, worth $170,000 (€150,000) each, were seized when forces loyal to the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli overran the pro-Haftar base in Gharyan, 100 km (60 miles) south of Tripoli.
They were shown to reporters at the time, leading to an investigation in Washington to determine who owned the weapons, which can be used against tanks and other vehicles.
“These weapons were for the protection of forces undertaking intelligence and counter-terror missions,” the French statement added.
The ministry statement did not explain how the missiles were lost.
The admission is potentially embarrassing for France which has long denied allegations that it is assisting Haftar on the ground while also giving him diplomatic support internationally.
On April 4, Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli seeking to overthrow the Libyan government, triggering fighting that has claimed at least 1,000 lives.
Haftar is increasingly seen by his allies, which include Russia and Egypt, as a bulwark against Islamists in Libya who gained a foothold after the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time leader Moammar Qaddafi.
Shells bearing the markings of the army of the United Arab Emirates were also shown to journalists after being found at the base in Gheryan, according to forces loyal to the Tripoli government.
The FGM-148 Javelin is a U.S.-made man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile which locks on and uses automatic infrared guidance, allowing the user to take cover immediately.
First deployed in 1996, Javelin’s high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead can defeat modern tanks by attacking them from above, but the system can also use a direct-attack mode against buildings and helicopters.
The tandem warhead carries two shaped charges: a precursor to detonate explosive reactive armor and a primary warhead to penetrate base armor.
More than 12,000 CLUs have been produced to date and are in the inventories of U.S. forces and France, Taiwan, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Ukraine, Georgia, Australia, Estonia, UAE and the United Kingdom.
With reporting from AFP