U.S. smuggles Russian anti-aircraft missile system out of Libya - report

The United States has recovered a Russian-made missile system captured by Turkish-backed forces in Libya, the Times reported on Thursday.

The Pantsir S-1 missile battery was purchased from Russia by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), before being provided to the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar, the newspaper said.

The UAE and Russia have both given significant military support to the LNA as it seeks to gain the upper hand in Libya’s civil war.

However, a LNA offensive against Libya’s U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) began to falter last year after Turkey stepped up its military support for the Tripoli-based administration.

The Pantsir S-1 system was captured from the LNA after the Watiya airbase was overrun by a GNA counterattack on May 18, the Times said.

The missiles subsequently fell into the hands of militia commander Mohamed Bahroun, before being seized by forces loyal to GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and taken to a Turkish military base, it said.

Bashagha, a Libyan of Turkish descent, is one of Ankara’s closest allies in the conflict.

U.S. forces retrieved the Pantsir S-1 system in June from the Zuwara airport, situated to the west of Tripoli, using a transport plane following fears it could be used against civilian aircraft, the Times said.