On July 3, OpenFacto.fr released an exclusive summary of open source data confirming Turkish supplies of weapons and military equipment to Libya in violation of the UN-imposed arms supply embargo.
The summary entitled “Turkey’s shadow arms deliveries” provides a closer look at six cases of Turkish violations of the UN embargo. This includes supplies of BMC Kirpi II, BMC Vuran and ACV-15 vehicles, T-155 Firtina self-propelled howitzers, Oerlikon 35 mm towed anti-aircraft guns, KORKUT self-propelled air-defense gun systems, MIM-23 Hawk low to medium altitude ground-to-air missile systems, AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radars, and 9K11 Malyutka anti-tank guided missiles. These weapons are supplied by Turkey to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord or directly used by Turkey forces to support the GNA in its battle against the Libyan National Army.
The “Executive Summary” of the report reads as the following:
- These six cases successfully demonstrate how Turkish manufactured heavy armament or weapons part of the Turkish arsenal have been delivered to GNA-affiliated factions in Libya. Between May 2019 and March 2020, five deliveries were identified from start to finish. Additional deliveries – successful or attempted – were associated with the vessels or planes identified. A pattern aiming at concealing the origin of goods, senders and routes to Libya emerged from the analysis:
- Logistics: using mainly non-Turkish shipping lines for transport, working with arms traffickers.
- Navigation: using coastal roads to circumvent risky European territorial waters for Turkish shipments, departing from a foreign country with a stop-over in Turkey or indicating a false arrival destination.
- Technical: spoofing AIS data and “going dark” to avoid detection.
- Physical: changing the appearance of the boat.
- Human: changing from international crews to Turkish crews prevent any information leak.
- Military: using Turkish military frigates to escort boats to prevent interception in European seas or attacks at the final destination.
- Security: strengthening physical and online operational security with less and less opportunities to get deliberate or accidental images of vessels, deliveries, materials.
- Research on MV AMAZON indicates a clear violation of the arms embargo by Turkey. We are able to identify the shipment of a large number of armored military vehicles manufactured by BMC Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret AS, as well as other lethal arms, which were received by pro-GNA militias. The shipping operation was conducted by a Turkish company specializing officially in fruit and vegetable transportation, which has also been involved in arms trafficking for other armed groups, allegedly including the Russian security company Wagner.
- The aircraft ER-BAJ appears to be part of a recurring transport link between Turkey and Libya, operated by civil aviation companies previously involved in arms trafficking:
- A Libyan company, GASG/Global Air Transport, chartered the 747 Boeing and is known to have transported arms in Libya and Somalia.
- The plane’s owner Aerotranscargo is a Moldovan company previously accused of having delivered weapons in Libya and Syria.
- Open source research reveals circumstantial evidence around MV SINGLE EAGLE’s possible involvement in arms transit, showing:
- Turkey could be in violation of the arms embargo by delivering new equipment to Libya
- Hawk and Korkut anti-aircraft defense systems – on the MV Single Eagle.
- The ship is associated with the German subsidiary of the Lebanese Abou Merhi Group: AML Ship Management GmbH.
- Following the arrest of MV BANA’s captain in Italy on its return from Libya, open-sources brought to light a new arms shipment from Turkey in violation of the embargo, with the possible dissemination of the materiel to pro-GNA factions. MV BANA can be identified at
the port of Tripoli and in Turkey prior to its journey. The ship also belongs to the Abou Merhi Group, which was sanctioned for two years by the United States Treasury for logistical support to a drug trafficker affiliated with Hezbollah. Abou Merhi Group and its affiliates were removed from sanctions list in 2017 but the recent suspected activities raise questions over this decision.
- MV ANA, owned by an Albanian shipping company, was targeted by an air strike in Tripoli Port, while allegedly making an arms delivery to the GNA. An attempt was later made to conceal a second delivery by MV ANA by changing its name to MV PRAY, repainting it and spoofing its IMO number on the AIS system. Strong questions remain on the administrative compliance of MV PRAY with the International Maritime Organization for the registration of the IMO number and with Tanzania for using a Tanzanian flag. In addition, the investigation reveals the likely involvement of military entities in managing containers not delivered to Libya following the boat interception by the French army.
- This report investigates the Turkish Government’s support to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), setting out a methodology to detect arms embargo violations through open-source research.
- OpenFacto looked at six suspected cases using the following methodology:
- The detection of arms deliveries reported by Libyan newspaper and social media, identification of the weapons, manufacturers and links with Turkey.
- The identification of the mode of transport, vessels/planes, reconstruction of the routes, identification of shipping companies and assessments of their previous activities.
- The identification of the sender and recipient of the delivery, as far as is possible.
- UN resolutions on the arms embargo on Libya indicate the circumstances under which arms deliveries are permitted or constitute a violation. Exclusions in Libya are limited to arms and material protecting international organizations and NGOs, or ensuring order for the recognized government (GNA) following approval from the UN Committee. None of the case studies were either declared, approved or fall into the above exclusions.
- Based on the research conducted for this report, OpenFacto has been able to develop a methodology for the detection of embargo or sanction violations using open-source information. This provides a framework for initial research in the field and also highlights areas
for further investigations beyond OSINT.
While most of the facts mentioned are an open secret and were repeatedly covered by mainstream and alternative media, the “Turkey’s shadow arms deliveries” report is a useful and up-to-date summary allowing to get a look at how Ankara provides its policy in Libya.
Another interesting trend highlighted by the report is the current state of tensions within NATO member states and the US and its allies, in general. According to data provided on the main page of the French-based organization “OpenFacto”, at least one of its members is also a member of the infamous outlet “Bellingcat”. Over the past years, Bellingcat has become widely known as a useful tool in pushing of pro-US and pro-NATO propaganda as well as the ‘general Western’ narrative. Nonetheless, in 2020, we can see how members of the very same organization participating in a project working to damage interests of a NATO member state, Turkey, which is now engaged in the conflict with another NATO member state, France. This is how the modern ‘NATO unity’ looks like. (MORE ABOUT THE TURKISH-FRENCH TENSIONS HERE)
Some highlights from the report:
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