AQIM: We’re ‘Main Beneficiaries’ of Libya Weapons

Is al-Qaeda's North Africa Wing Loading Up on Surface-to-Air Missiles?

There have been plenty of stories about massive numbers of weapons, including tens of thousands of shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) that went missing from Libya and were promptly smuggled out of the country. Excluding a few vague references to arms markets in Sinai, there has been little indication of where exactly those weapons ended up.

But today, a buyer has spoken up. The group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the al-Qaeda faction operating in northwestern Africa, termed itself one of the “main beneficiaries” of the Arab revolutions, citing in particular the Libyan weapons.

“As for our benefiting from the weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances,” noted AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, in comments to the Mauritanian news agency.

The concern about shoulder-launch SAMs ended up in an al-Qaeda faction’s hands, particularly in the massive numbers that existed in Libya, is clear. Experts said Libya had enough such weapons in its caches to turn the entire northern half of Africa into a “no-fly” zone. Nobody knows for sure where these weapons are, but its clear that one doesn’t want to be flying anywhere near them.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.