The French Defense Ministry announced in a statement on Wednesday that the four US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles discovered by government forces in one of Haftar’s bases in the strategic town of Gharyan, south of the Libyan capital of Tripoli had been purchased by France in 2010.
The ministry said the missiles were intended for the “protection of a French military unit deployed to carry out intelligence and counter-terrorism operations” in Libya, itself a first-time admission of French military presence in the North African country since 2016.
It also said the four missiles were damaged and unusable and had been in a temporary depot and scheduled for destruction.
The ministry did not explain how the weapons ended up in the base used by Haftar.
The renegade general is waging an offensive on the Libyan capital. Nevertheless, he is supported by the French government and has met with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
A French military adviser denied that the missiles were transferred to Haftar, according to The New York Times.
The anti-tank missiles, worth 170,000 dollars each, were seized in June when the Tripoli-based government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj retook Gharyan, home to the main supply base of forces loyal to Haftar. Government officials said at the time that the markings on the missiles — jointly manufactured by the US arms giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — indicated that they had originally been sold to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major buyer of US arms and one of Haftar’s main supporters.
The UAE last week denied that it owned the missiles.
Forces loyal to Haftar launched the offensive to capture Tripoli on April 4. Since then, fighting has killed 653 people, wounded more than 2,000, and displaced over 93,000, according to the United Nations (UN).
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention, in which France played a leading role.
African Union regrets ‘external interference’ in Libya
Meanwhile, the African Union (AU)’s High Level Committee on Libya has expressed concern at “outside interference” in the country and proposed the creation of a special joint UN and AU envoy to provide “unified support to Libyan peace efforts.”
“The Committee expressed its deep concern over continued external interference in Libya’s internal affairs, motivated by selfish interests, which continues to undermine efforts to establish a permanent and unconditional ceasefire,” the committee said in a statement.
The African Union held a summit on the Libyan conflict in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, at the weekend.