The tangled conflict in libya has long become a proxy war for a number of influential countries.
A secret mission by private western operatives – directed from the united arab emirates – exposed by UN experts now highlights how the chaotic country is increasingly becoming a pawn in the international power struggle. It is about dubious security companies supporting a libyan warlord, smuggled helicopters and planned raids on ships in the mediterranean sea. The german press agency was able to view the nearly 80-page confidential report.
At the end of june 2019, at least 20 people boarded a turboprop cargo plane in amman, jordan, according to the report. They come from australia, france, malta, south africa, the united kingdom and the u.S. Officially, they are on a scientific mission to conduct "geophysical and hyperspectral surveys" in libya on behalf of jordan. But UN report calls it a "cover-up story". According to the information, they are members of private military companies, their plan is much less peaceful.
Their destination is bengasi 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 unity government there. Among its allies are the united arab emirates (UAE), russia, france and egypt. There have been repeated reports of the delivery of weapons. A recent UN report concluded that there were up to 1200 paramilitaries from a russian security company in the country.
But haftar’s march on tripoli still stalled, in part because of foreign support for the unity government: head of government fajis al-saraj has italy, qatar and turkey on his side. Blatant arms shipments from ankara despite a UN embargo on the entire country are well documented.
This is where the flown-in forces come into play, which the experts expressly do not call "soldiers. According to the report, they are to intercept weapons supplies from turkey. "The panel believes that one objective of project opus was to provide (haftar) with the capability to disrupt the sea route for weapons from turkey to the unity government in tripoli". This is also evidenced by an evaluated conversation of those involved: it states that the task is to "board and search enemy supply ships". There had also been talk of a "maritime strike group".
According to experts, the planning of the secret operation was carried out mainly by companies based in the united arab emirates – the report highlights "lancaster6" and "opus capital asset". Six military helicopters – three super puma and three aerospatiale SA 341 – were procured in sudafrica in mid-june 2019, transported by land to botswana and flown from there to bengasi.
At the same time, thousands of miles away: at the southern tip of europe in malta, "opus capital asset" reportedly rented two military inflatable boats for a daily rate of 5,000 euros for a total of 90 days. Like the helicopters, they were to be equipped with machine guns. On 27. June the boats were brought to bengasi.
Everything was prepared when the mission forces landed in the libyan city with the cargo plane at the end of june. In southern benghazi, they were reportedly housed in a rough housing complex, protected by local militia. But already on 2. July – less than a week after their arrival – their leader aborted the operation. In the evening, the group boarded the two inflatable boats in the port of bengasi, one of which they had to abandon because of damage. After a 15-hour journey by night 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 abandonment of assets in libya."But in malta there was already a lawyer ready for the group, and also a new cover-up story: the people were oil workers and had to leave libya as soon as possible because of unrest.
The report leaves open who was ultimately responsible for the "opus" project. The UN mission of the united arab emirates love a mail with request for statement at first unanswered. Also "lancaster6" and "opus capital asset limited" initially did not respond to corresponding inquiries.
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 u.S.A. At least ten companies from three countries – the emirates, the british virgin islands and malta – were involved in the project. Another company in south africa is alleged to have concealed the identity of the wire-pullers, among other things.