Qaddafi Era Missiles Missing In Libya

Thousands of missiles are missing in Libya:

The U.S. has been unable to secure thousands of potentially dangerous shoulder-fired missiles known as “MANPADS” that were leftover from the Qaddafi regime in Libya, CBS News has learned.

]MANPADS stands for “Man-portable air-defense systems.” According to a well-placed source, hundreds of the missiles have been tracked as having gone to Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Algeria-based Sunni Muslim terrorist group fighting for control in Mali.

“I would imagine they’re trying to get their hands on as many weapons such as MANPADS as they can,” says CBS News national security consultant Juan Zarate. “It’s a danger both to the military conflict underway in Mali and a real threat to civilian aircraft if, in fact, terrorists have their hands on these MANPADS.”

efore his overthrow and death in the fall of 2011, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was believed to have purchased 15,000-20,000 Soviet MANPADS. Concern over the whereabouts of the missiles – and the possibility that terrorists could buy them on the black market and even use them to shoot down American passenger jets – drove a U.S. effort to recover as many as possible. But only about 2,000 were accounted for prior to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on Benghazi, Libya, according to the source. He describes those working to locate the missiles as “beside themselves” and “frustrated.”

The program to recover MANPADS in Libya was funded by the U.S. and said to have been run by South African contractors. The contractors attempted to appeal to Libyans, many of them ex-Gaddafi loyalists, to turn over or destroy the MANPADS as a matter of patriotism and pride.

“We told them that ‘if planes start dropping out of the sky, it will trace back to you and you’ll have the international reputation for terrorism,'” says the source. “We offered them money, we tried talking them out of it … The only successes they had were in western Libya, the Tripoli area. In the eastern half toward Benghazi, they were getting nowhere.”

Recovering MANPADS that have left official state custody is “almost a ‘mission impossible’ task,” says Lincoln Bloomfield Junior, who led a program under the Bush Administration to recover the weapons worldwide.

In the case of Libya’s missing MANPADS, there was also concern they would get into the Syrian conflict. “Once they start getting sold on the black market, we can’t control them,” says one source.

Great something new to worry about.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    MANPADS. The name just makes me snicker.

  2. Rick Almeida says:

    The fact that we have a missile system called “MANPADS” is pretty much proof that bureaucracy creates stupidity.

    Lieutenant: “Battalion S-2 confirms hostile helicopters inbound. Sergeant, get the men ready.”

    Sergeant: “Men, we’re gonna strap on our MANPADS and get ready to move out. Fall out, fall back in in 10 minutes in full MANPADS gear.”

  3. Al says:

    Before they were replaced by SINCGARS most tactical radios in the military were AN/PRC-77s, which were commonly referred to as a “prick-77” or just “prick.” Comm techs were usually called “pricks.” They tended to try and live up to the name.

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Yay, Arab Spring! Yay, “leading from behind!” Another glorious triumph for the Obama Doctrine!

  5. anjin-san says:

    Fox is pretending that Obama’s trip to Israel, which was, well – a triumph – did not happen, so this drivel is all Jenos has.

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Dude, when I have to call you out on trying to change the subject and hijack the thread, you know you got a problem.

  7. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Look we get it. You don’t want to talk about Obama’s trip to Israel. Can’t say I blame you. Get back to something you can wrap your brain around, like “Obama ate dog”…

  8. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    when I have to call you out on trying to change the subject and hijack the thread

    In other words, when I do something from time to time that you do several times a day, you will whine about it?

    Did no one ever tell you that whining is not something a grown man should do? Apparently not.

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Obama went to Israel, got Israel to apologize for acting perfectly legally in self-defense to the flotilla that Turkey let sail, and then Israel started popping Syrians who were using their inner turmoil to take pot-shots across the border at Israel. Sounds like Obama told Israel “look, throw Turkey a bone here over something that happened a couple of years ago, and we’ll make sure no one squawks too loudly when you smack the Syrians trying to kill your people today.” Not a great deal for Israel on a principled stance, but not too bad on a pragmatic one.

    So you got me to go off-topic and give an opinion on Obama in Israel (where, I presume, he wasn’t served dog, as it isn’t kosher — dogs lack cloven hooves, and don’t chew their cud). Congrats. Now you wanna talk about the topic at hand — about how all those missiles, so coveted by terrorists, are loose somewhere in the world? I’m fairly certain Israeli airliners have countermeasures, but they’re about the only civilian aircraft that do.