Report to Congress Warned of Libyan Security Threats -- One Month Before Sept. 11 Attack

October 3, 2012 - 5:32 PM

Mideast Libya

Libyan security forces stand guard as people turn in weapons in Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Hundreds of Libyans have converged on a main square in Benghazi in response to a call from the military to hand over their weapons, some driving in with armored personnel carriers, vehicles with mounted anti-aircraft guns and hundreds of rocket launchers. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

(CNSNews.com) – One month before the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Congressional Research Service issued a report detailing dangerous security conditions that existed in Libya.

The report warned Congress about the theft and transport of heavy and small weapons stolen from the Libyan military, and occasional violent armed flare ups between rival militia groups competing for power.

“Security concerns remain the immediate priority, as a series of isolated armed conflicts and attacks on international targets in several cities have raised serious questions about the ability of the interim authorities to ensure order,” the August report stated.

“As of August 2012, militia groups remained active and influential, with some acknowledging and participating in government efforts to assert central security authority. Public displays of weapons, attacks on international targets, and isolated armed clashes underscore the threats posed by some groups,” the report noted.

“Security officials continue to rely on irregular forces to provide security in much of the country,” the CRS said. “Differences of opinion over regional representation and the balance of power between national and local authorities may become a subject of greater debate and potential source of conflict as the transition continues.”

Moreover, weapons taken from Libyan military depots constituted a major threat, according to CRS.

“The Libyan military’s massive small arms and heavy weapons stockpiles have been looted and dispersed both within Libya and beyond its borders, creating local and regional security concerns,” the report noted.

“Authorities in several countries, including Egypt, Niger, Algeria, Israel, and Tunisia, have expressed concerns about the smuggling of Libyan weaponry across or toward their borders, and continuing smuggling incidents and arrests reflect the broad scope of the threat,” the report added.

A key concern, according to the report, is whether shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles – known as MANPADS -- have left the country.

Though there has been no indication from either U.S. officials or the United Nations that the missiles have been smuggled out of Libya, the report noted that such a scenario cannot yet be ruled out.

Meanwhile, nuclear materials and chemical weapons components are apparently secure, according to the Congressional Research Service, and the report also said that security conditions overall were “mostly stable.”

But the report noted that most security experts expect that unexploded ordnance, explosive remnants, and looted weaponry “will present a domestic and regional challenge for many years.”

The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate by terrorists armed with heavy weapons left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel dead.