Looting of Weapons Stockpiles in Libya Augurs Poorly for Rebel Order

Massive hauls of explosives and ammunition are larger than those left by Saddam Hussein which fueled the Iraq insurgency

Libyan rebel militias continue to loot enormous stockpiles of weapons left behind by ousted leader Muammar Gadhafi, fueling worries that newly armed gangs could grow violent and that a sprawling illicit arms trade could reach dangerous places.

The looting of weapons depots has been going on ever since rebels took control of the capital Tripoli in August. NATO has issued a number of warnings pressing the Transitional National Council (TNC) to safeguard the weapons, and weapons have reportedly reached militants in Gaza as well as al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Algeria.

The Nigerian government to the south has issued warnings that Nigerian-based terrorist groups may be getting their hands on Libyan weapons from the rebel looting.

But the lack of a national army and the absence of much cohesiveness among rebel groups has raised concerns about the possibility of increased violence within Libya. The massive haul of explosives and ammunition is much larger than the stockpiles left behind by Saddam Hussein that helped fuel the insurgency in Iraq, and it poses risks for independent guerrilla movements and more bloodshed down the road.

The war is far from over, with NATO and rebel forces still battling a number of mostly civilian pro-Gadhafi towns violently resisting rebel authority. In recent clashes in the town of Schwerif regime loyalists set fire to an ammunition dump to keep it out of rebel hands.

The ethnic and tribal cleavages within the various rebel factions are complicating things enough, but the groups of civilians and loyalists clumping together and arming themselves are adding to the widespread disorder in Libya.

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.