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Rights group urges Libya to secure weapons stockpiles

TRIPOLI, Oct 25 – Vast stockpiles of weapons remain unguarded near Sirte, a rights group said on Tuesday, urging Libya’s interim government to secure these weapons facilities to prevent further looting.

“For months we have been warning the NTC and NATO about the dangers posed by these vast stockpiles of unguarded weapons, and the urgent need to secure them,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

“Surface-to-air missiles can take down civilian aircraft, and the explosive weapons can be converted easily into the car bombs and IEDs that have killed thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added.

Libya is awash with weapons after the eight-month conflict, and disarming the country is one of the most pressing tasks facing the National Transitional Council (NTC).

Sirte, the devastated hometown of Libya’s ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi, was the last bastion of resistance to NTC forces.

It witnessed intense fighting in the month-long siege prior to its fall last week, on the day that Kadhafi was caught and then killed as he fled the city.

HRW said two unguarded weapons sites that it inspected near Sirte contained surface-to-air missiles, tank and mortar rounds, large numbers of munitions, and thousands of guided and unguided aerial weapons.

While the rights group was inspecting one of the sites, which had already been heavily looted, it said civilians and armed anti-Kadhafi fighters arrived with pickup trucks to remove more weapons.

“Now that fighting has ended, one of the NTC’s top priorities should be securing weapons facilities, and bringing the unchecked flow of arms in the country under control,” Bouckaert said.

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HRW on Monday urged the NTC to probe the killing of 53 people whose decaying bodies were found in Sirte, charging that some of the Kadhafi loyalists appeared to have been executed.

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