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Gaddafi chemical weapons factory in al-Jufra leaking – Libyan rebel spokesman | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Libyan “17 February revolution committee” spokesman Hamza Hussein al-Shaibani has informed Asharq Al-Awsat that former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s chemical weapons factory in al-Jufra in central Libya is leaking.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from the town of Waddan, located in the al-Jufra district, which was considered to be the center of Gaddafi arms manufacture and storage, al-Shaibani confirmed that the chemical weapons storage facility is in a state of disrepair. There are approximately a total of 168 warehouses storing different types of weapons, alongside thousands of weapons being stored outdoors.

The “17 February revolution committee” spokesman also confirmed that Hamid Abu Sabaa Gaddafi, the commander of the military police under the former regime, had been killed. Hamid Abu Sabaa Gaddafi was thought to be on the run, but al-Shaibani revealed that his corpse has been identified by Libyan rebels. He is believed to have been killed three weeks ago, whilst trying to escape from the Libyan rebels. His car was fired upon by the Libyan revolutionaries who are now in control of the majority of the country, and he died in the resulting crash. However the Libyan rebels were unable to confirm his identity at the time. Hamid Abu Sabaa Gaddafi was a member of the Gaddafi family.

The town of Waddan, alongside other towns and cities close to the Libyan military base in al-Jufra, was liberated by the Libyan rebels alongside Tripoli in August. The district of al-Jufra is considered to be a strategically vital location, and is a focus point for logistics, supplies, and storage. This is because it provides easy access to major Libyan cities and areas including Sirte, Tripoli, Misrata, Sabha, and Ajdabiya. This central region is also important as it contains stores of a huge number of conventional and chemical weapons. Al-Shaibani told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Jufra was “the supply point that Gaddafi forces used to transfer munitions” adding that “it holds a collection of large weapons warehouses which have spread throughout al-Jufra and into the surrounding desert”.

Al-Shaibani also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “chemical weapons” were found in the Ghazi area of Waddan. He also detailed the existence of other weapons stores in the Libyan desert, in an area called “Akhshum al-Khil”. He said that this area was located 120 km south of al-Jufra, along the road between Waddan and Sirte.

Al-Shaibani confirmed that there are a number of weapons store-houses in the al-Jufra area, housing a huge number of arms and weapons. He said that the Libyan rebels are in the process of gathering these weapons and sending them to the battle fronts, adding that “there are countless weapons…including Grad missiles, as well as artillery and rocket launchers, along with other types of heavy weaponry.” He claimed that these weapons numbered into the tens of thousands.

Al-Shaibani also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that pro-Gaddafi forces had removed many weapons from al-Jufra in an attempt to prevent them being targeted by NATO, after NATO forces began to bomb strategic Gaddafi sites during the early days of the Libyan uprising.

The international community has expressed its concern at the proliferation of weapons in Libya, warning against these weapons being exported to neighboring countries. The Libyan National Transitional Council [NTC] that is currently in control of the country had pledged to take all necessary action, but it seems that the huge quantity of arms spread across Libya – as well as the new weapons stores discovered recently – not to mention the arms and weaponry that remain outside of NTC control, pose a huge challenge to the new Libyan authority.

The “17 February revolution committee” spokesman also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Libyan rebels had discovered arms storehouses in the Sukna region, 30 km from Waddan. According to al-Shaibani, “there is a wide range of heavy surface-to-air and anti-tank weapons, as well as 14.5 caliber machine gun ammo, in addition to a squadron of tanks. More than 500 tanks were operational, whilst the rest had been put out of commission by NATO bombardments”.

There were also weapons stores located at the al-Jufra airport, which had been under the control of General Rafi al-Sharif. Al-Shaibani told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had no new information about the pro-Gaddafi general’s whereabouts, saying that he had most likely fled the country for Niger. The Libyan rebels found stores of light weaponry, anti-aircraft missiles, and a small amount of artillery at the al-Jufra airport. Most of these weapons were destroyed by NATO bombardment, whilst the rest was under the control of the Libyan national [rebel] army.

NATO had been closely monitoring Gaddafi’s arsenal of weaponry in this particular region, due to the areas strategic location. NATO targeted a substantial portion of Gaddafi’s conventional weapons stores in central Libya over the past 4 months. After this area fell under Libyan rebel control, the NTC ordered the transfer of remaining operational weapons to the frontline to be used in their battle to reclaim the rest of Libya, namely Sirte and Bani Walid.

As for the chemical weapons, including stores of mustard gas, al-Shaibani told Asharq Al-Awsat that these have not been moved, revealing that “foreign experts came to examine the [chemical weapons] stores and shut them down, stressing that they must be guarded.” He added that there is as much as ten tons of chemical weaponry located in al-Jufra.

He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the chemical weapons stores are not clearly demarcated; there are many areas in the valleys [near al-Jufra] where we believe Gaddafi is hiding chemical weapons. We discovered that the Gaddafi regime was drilling in the mountains surrounding al-Jufra…creating weapons stores within the mountains.” He added “we believe that there are chemical weapons and other arms that nobody knows anything about hidden within these mountains.”

He also revealed that “there is a leak in one of the chemical weapons tanks” in a large factory near the Libyan military headquarters near al-Jufra. He described this leak as being “simple” but stressed that “we need to intervene to repair it” adding that “we must remove all [chemical weapons] from there.”