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Italian authorities seize ship carrying Chinese weapons to Libya

Italian authorities seize ship carrying Chinese weapons to Libya Government crisis in Italy, Rome, August 9, 2019, Anadolu Agency
By Anadolu Agency
Jun 22, 2024 6:55 PM

Italian authorities conducted an operation at the port of Gioia Tauro, seizing a cargo ship allegedly carrying millions of dollars worth of weapons from China to forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, according to Corriere della Sera.

The report stated that Italian security forces acted on intelligence from the United States. On June 18, they intercepted the large container ship in the southwestern port of Gioia Tauro, where they confiscated its cargo.

The operation aimed to seize millions of dollars worth of weapons. According to U.S. officials, the ship’s suspected destination was Benghazi, under Haftar’s control.

The vessel in question, the “MSC Arina,” departed from Shenzhen, China, on April 30. It passed through Singapore, the Cape of Good Hope, and Gibraltar before entering the Mediterranean. After stopping at the ports of Valencia and Barcelona in Spain, it reached Gioia Tauro on June 18.

U.S. officials reportedly decided to seize the weapons when the ship arrived in Italy, possibly requesting assistance from their Italian allies.

When asked about the seizure, MSC, the shipping company, stated there was no record of such an event. The report noted that it is not uncommon for commercial ships of major international companies to be used for illicit transportation without the shipowners’ knowledge.

Following the June 18 operation, the MSC Arina departed Gioia Tauro on June 20, continuing its journey in the western Mediterranean.

U.S.-Russia Tensions Over Libya
The report also highlighted the geopolitical implications, noting that the operation occurred amid renewed U.S.-Russia tensions over Libya. The United Nations sanctions prohibit the export of military equipment to Libya.

“American and European intelligence services suspect the Kremlin intends to establish a military port in Tobruk, under Haftar’s control, creating a strategic point of access that would extend Russian military presence to Sudan, Niger, Chad, and the Central African Republic,” the report said.

A Russian military base in Tobruk would be close to the southern flank of the European Union and NATO, and near the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s headquarters in Naples. The report added, “Moscow may be leveraging U.S. focus on the wars in Gaza and Ukraine and the presidential campaign to increase its influence in Africa via Haftar.”

Last Updated:  Jun 22, 2024 10:21 PM