Reuters reports: Abdul Basit Haroun says he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria, which he delivers on chartered flights to neighboring countries and then smuggles over the border.
After fleeing Libya in his 20s, Haroun established himself as a property developer in Manchester. After about two decades in the British city, he returned to Libya in 2011 to fight in the revolution, where he became a prominent rebel commander.
He says he sends aid and weapons to help Syrians achieve the freedom he fought for during the Libyan revolution.
The first consignment of weapons was smuggled into Syria aboard a Libyan ship delivering aid last year, Haroun says, but now containers of arms are flown “above board” into neighboring countries on chartered flights.
In the months since Haroun began his work, arming the rebels has moved up the international agenda, with Saudi Arabia equipping them with missiles, and Washington also planning to send weapons to the men fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
Haroun spoke to Reuters over coffee and homemade cake late at night at his villa on the outskirts of Benghazi, the eastern city that began the uprising that deposed Muammar Gaddafi.
His son, a young man who spoke English with a Manchester accent, offered help with weapon prices and other details.
Haroun was upset the West had not intervened in Syria, as it did in Libya and said the opportunity to avert a larger war had been missed.
“Even when the war in Syria ends, there will be another war in region; Sunni against Shia. At the beginning, there was just Assad to bring down … now Hezbollah, Iran are involved.”
A Reuters reporter was taken to an undisclosed location in Benghazi to see a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria. It was stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons. [Continue reading…]