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Missile Watch No. 2: Somalia

CNN and AFP are reporting that the Shabaab, a militant wing of a Somali insurgent group, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), has threatened to treat “as an enemy…

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Video Shows Somali Insurgent with Sophisticated SA-18 Missile

On Friday, the Washington Post posted an Associated Press story with a video still of a man in civilian clothes holding what appears to be an advanced SA-18 Igla man-portable air defense system (MANPADS).* To date, the only MANPADS reported to be in the arsenals of the Somali insurgents were the less sophisticated SA-7.** The video was reportedly obtained by the Associated Press from an individual associated with Shabab, the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controlled much of Somalia before it was routed by Ethiopian troops in December 2006. Last October, UN investigators reported that the ICU had received six weapons shipments containing several dozen shoulder-fired missiles.

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Arms to Somalia: Déjà vu

The latest report from the UN group that monitors the arms embargo on Somalia has caused quite a stir, generating extensive news coverage and eliciting vehement denials from governments accused of violating the embargo. But, as underscored by declassified US intelligence documents from the 1990s, such disregard for the embargo is nothing new. The documents, which were obtained by the FAS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a disheartening similarity between sanctions-busting in the mid-1990’s and sanctions-busting now. From the countries involved to the weapons shipped, little appears to have changed over the last decade.

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Igla missiles “available immediately” to Victor Bout, claims associate

On Thursday, famed arms merchant Victor Bout was arrested at a Thai hotel on charges of selling weapons to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a 40-year-old insurgent group known for drug trafficking and terrorist attacks. In recent years, Bout and his affiliates have been accused of arranging illicit arms transfers in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, and elsewhere. The name “Victor Bout” has become synonymous with the large, clandestine arms shipments that have fueled devastating civil wars in developing countries, and the extreme difficulty of shutting down the global, ever-shifting networks that orchestrate these transfers. His arrest puts arms traffickers on notice that the days of impunity may be coming to an end. The arrest could have significant practical implications as well, depending on the outcome of the case against Bout and the quantity and quality of information about his network acquired by authorities as a result of his arrest. If Bout is tried and convicted, and information collected along the way leads to the arrest and conviction of other key members of his global network – two big “ifs” – his arrest could indeed “mar[k] the end of the reign of one of the world’s most wanted arms traffickers,” as claimed by US Attorney Michael Garcia.

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New Information on Somali MANPADS

The latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia contains additional information about the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles used by Islamic insurgents to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft in March. Below is an excerpt from the UN report: On 23 March 2007, at approximately 1700 hours, an IL-76 cargo plane belonging to Transaviaexport, a Belarusian company, was shot down after a missile fired by Shabaab fighters hit the left wing. The plane, with 11 crewmembers and passengers, was hit at low altitude following take-off. It had earlier delivered logistics and spare parts for another aircraft that had made an emergency landing at Mogadishu International Airport. The missile used to shoot down the plane was an SA-18 (MANPAD, Man Portable Air Defence System). The SA-18 was reported to be part of a consignment of six SA-18s that had been delivered by Eritrea to ICU/Shabaab. Two missiles were fired at the plane; one hit the target and the other missed. The Monitoring Group showed the Committee a video of the actual firing of the missile, during the midterm briefing on 27 April 2007.

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