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France Arming Libyan Rebels

by John Reed on June 29, 2011

So it looks like NATO has begun arming the Libyan rebels, or at least the French have.

Makes me wonder if this tricked out FN2000 (shown above) was really seized from a Gadhafi loyalist, or was it provided by the French?

From AFP:

The French military confirmed June 29 that it had air-dropped “light weapons” earlier this month to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Ghadafi’s forces in the highlands south of Tripoli.

Earlier, the Le Figaro newspaper and a well-placed nongovernment source had said that France had dropped several tons of arms, including Milan anti-tank rockets and light armored vehicles, to the rebels.

But Col. Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff, told AFP that the shipments were essentially light arms such as assault rifles to help civilian communities protect themselves from regime troops.

Burkhard said France had become aware in early June that rebel-held Berber villages in the Djebel Nafusa highland region south of the capital had come under pressure from the Libyan strongman’s loyalist forces.

“We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies,” he said. “During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defense, mainly ammunition.”

Burkhard described the arms as “light infantry weapons of the rifle type” and said the drops were carried out over several days “so that civilians would not be massacred”.

According to Le Figaro, which said it had seen a secret intelligence memo and talked to well-placed officials, the drops were designed to help rebel fighters encircle Tripoli and encourage a popular revolt in the city itself.

“If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Ghadafi,” said an official quoted in the report. “The regime’s mercenaries are no longer getting paid and are scarcely getting fed. There’s a severe fuel shortage, the population has had enough.”

A well-placed nongovernment source told AFP that 40 tons of weapons including “light armored cars” had been delivered to rebels in western Libya.

According to Le Figaro, the French arms shipments are dropped from planes across the Djebel Nafusa region, where Berber tribes have risen to join the revolt against Ghadafi’s rule and seized several provincial towns.

The crates hold assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said, and also European-made Milan anti-tank missiles, a powerful addition to the rebel arsenal that can destroy a tank or a bunker.

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