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Militant raid leads to disclosure of secret US program in Libya

By PressTV.com | Last updated: Jun 5, 2014 - 11:46:12 PM

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A raid by the militants in Libya on a military base where the US was covertly training local forces has led to the disclosure of the secretive American program, a report says.

US military forces have been commissioned since 2013 to covertly establish and train local “counter-terrorism” units in Libya, Mauritania, Niger and Mali as part of Washington’s efforts to widen its war against what it calls al-Qaeda-linked militants in Africa, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing US officials without identifying them by name.

The secretive military training program has been financed in part with millions of dollars in classified Pentagon spending, according to the New York Times, and involves instructing and equipping “handpicked” commandos in the four African countries, with the hope that the teams will eventually acquire the capability to take on militants such as the Nigeria-based Boko Haram.

The initiative, however, has faced a number of setbacks, particularly in Libya, where the training was suddenly halted last August when a group of armed militants overpowered a small Libyan guard force at a training camp outside the capital, Tripoli, the report added.

In an August 4 raid on the military training base in Libya, which was revealed only now by the US daily, the militants seized hundreds of American-supplied automatic weapons, night-vision goggles and vehicles, the report said.

US authorities are now looking for a more secure site to get the military training program going again.

The American trainers had issued the Libyans M4 automatic rifles and Glock pistols, and the Libyans were responsible for safeguarding them at a warehouse. But all the weaponry was taken in the pre-dawn raid on August 4 by a suspected local militia that overpowered the Libyan guards.

The American trainers were not at the training camp at the time because they would usually stay at a nearby villa, leading to suspicions that the theft was an “inside job.”

Much of the equipment was later recovered, but some news reports suggested that some of the arms had gone on sale on the black market, the report added.

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