Soviet-made man-portable air-defense missile systems that the Libyan military and rebels possess could fall into the hands of terrorists amid the unrest in the North African country, the head of Russia's Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade said on Thursday.
"One of the consequences of the coalition forces' operation against Muammar Gaddafi's regime may be the appearance of MANPADS possessed by both the Libyan Army and rebel groups carrying out military operations against Tripoli on the black arms market," Igor Korotchenko, who is also a senior member of the Russian Defense Ministry's Public Council, said.
According to expert estimates, Libya has from 600 to 1,500 SA-14 Gremlin and SA-16 Gimlet MANPADS supplied during Soviet times.
Gaddafi has ordered to hand out arms, including MANPADS, to his supporters in a bid to assure resistance in case a ground operation by the international coalition. Korotchenko said Libyan rebels have captured up to 50 MANPADS from arms depots since the uprising began in mid-February.
The situation in Libya and at its borders is rapidly getting out of control, the expert said, which increases the risk of MANPADS being smuggled from Libya into neighboring counties and sold to terrorist groups around the Middle East, including al-Qaeda.
"These arms can then be used to carry out terrorist attacks against Western and Israeli airlines," he suggested.
Because of their small size, MANPADS can also be smuggled into the United States by cargo ships and fall into the hands of Islamists operating in North America, Korotchenko said.
"Leading special services across the world should undertake coordinated actions to avert this threat," he added.
The operation to enforce the no-fly zone regime in Libya, codenamed Odyssey Dawn, has been under way in the country since last Saturday. The UN Security Council approved "all necessary measures," including a military operation, to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi's attacks in a resolution passed last Thursday.
MOSCOW, March 24 (RIA Novosti)