U.S. missiles, sold to France, found in rebel hands in Libya

Authorities said Wednesday Libyan government forces have discovered multiple U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles in rebel hands, prompting new concern about covert and illegal arm sales.

The French military, which bought the missiles from the United States, said it wasn’t sure how the weapons ended up under insurgent control in Libya. French officials denied selling them to opposition Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who’s seeking to overthrow the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli.

Selling weapons to rebels in Libya would violate the U.S.-France agreement and a U.N. arms embargo.

Four of the missiles were found in a rebel compound near the front lines of a battle where officials say 1,000 people have died since April, including more than 100 civilians.

The weapons, at a cost of $170,000 each, are sold only to key U.S. allies. Libyan government forces said they recovered the missiles during a raid on a rebel camp in Gheryan, just south of Tripoli. Traced by their serial numbers, the arms were among 260 the Defense Department sold to France in 2010.

France has been a strong supporter to Hifter’s movement, and has sent special forces to Libya. An adviser to France’s defense minister said the missiles were no longer operational, and were being stored until they could be destroyed. He said a French military unit had controlled the missiles in Libya for “counter-terrorism operations.”

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