♠ Posted by Mick Rooney in Aviation News at Wednesday, September 03, 2014
An Islamist extremist group is believed to be in possession of at least eleven commercial aircraft following a prolonged rocket and gun attack on Libya's Tripoli International Airport late last month. United States intelligence agencies have refused to confirm or deny that up to eleven aircraft were reported missing by two Libyan state-owned airline companies, amid growing military and political chaos in the country. Fierce battles have raged at the airport since July when it was shut down, and before it was finally taken over by militant group Libya Dawn. The airport had been under the control of two other militia groups, known as Al Qaqa and Al Sawa, including the control of all aircraft belonging to Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.
The stability of Libya has rapidly deteriorated due to intense fighting between Islamists and anti-Islamist militias. Recent news footage from Al Jazeera TV and international press photographs over the past two weeks have shown a number of damaged aircraft. The Libyan Airlines fleet includes fourteen passenger and cargo jets, including seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s. Libyan state-owned Afriqiyah Airways fleet has thirteen aircraft, including three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.
US Government officials have not publicly confirmed that eleven aircraft are missing following communications with Libyan Government officials and the Egyptian military, who are considering military intervention as the crisis in Libya threatens to bring about the complete collapse of the Libyan State.US intelligence agencies are believed to be working to track down the aircraft using radar recordings and satellite imagery. The real concern is that the aircraft could be used in attacks to mark the anniversary of 9/11 later this month. While another attack using aircraft on US homeland is considered unlikely, there is the threat that Islamists could use the aircraft to target US interests in neighbouring countries in North Africa or possibly as far away as Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Free Beacon was the first news source to be leaked this information from inside US intelligence circles, though Al Jazeera TV has been reporting the possibility of missing aircraft for the past week. The Daily Mail was the first UK newspaper to pick up on the story this morning.
From The Washington Free Beacon:
Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, told Al Jazeera television, which first reported the airline theft Aug. 21, the alert regarding the stolen jetliners was preventive and covers the region from Cairo to Lagos Nigeria.
Mekkaoui said the jets being held by the Libyan group called Masked Men Brigade that was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in December.
The Masked Men Brigade is linked to al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia—the group behind the Benghazi terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.
Mekkaoui said “credible intelligence” reports given to states in the region indicated the Masked Men Brigade “is plotting to use the planes in attacks on a Maghreb state” on the 9/11 anniversary.