Rebel fighter holds an SA7 missile captured from Pro-Gaddafi arsenals in Benghazi.
Rebel fighter holds an SA7 missile captured from Pro-Gaddafi arsenals in Benghazi. Photo: Asmaa Waguih, Reuters.

Libyan and American bomb disposal teams have secured thousands of shoulder-held man portable air defense missile systems (shoulder fired missiles) originally owned by the Libyan military, however, about 15,000 such missiles are still at large. While some are believed to have been destroyed by NATO bombings, the majority of weapons, considered extremely valuable by terrorist and criminal groups, are believed to have reached terrorists organizations in the region.

According to Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, over 5,000 MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) were identified, disbanded and secured, and later were blown up at sea near the village of Sidi Bin Nur, east of Tripoli. Thousands more have been destroyed during NATO bombing, he added.

MANPADS missiles are considered a major threat when used by terrorists and during the collapse of the Libyan regime, many are believed to have reached terrorists groups in the region. Following the ending of the hostilities, the U.S. has sent a team of bomb disposal experts to seek, find and destroy such weapons before they fall into the wrong hands. This team has been working with Libyan groups for months. The numbers of MANPADS missiles owned by the Gadhafi ground and air forces is believed to be in the range of 20,000.

Securing and neutralizing conventional and unconventional weapon caches possessed by the Gaddafi regime are one of the main concerns of NATO after the end of the hostilities. While main weapon systems, such as tanks, armored personnel vehicles and artillery guns operated primarily by Gaddafi supporters were deliberately destroyed by NATO attacks through the months of the conflict, MANPADS, rockets and chemical warfare stockpiles maintained intact and mostly unaccounted for.

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