Cyprus Says US Agents Check Light Planes Cited In Libya War Report

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Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar gestures while speaking during Independence Day celebrations in Benghazi, Libya on December 24, 2020. REUTERS / Esam Omran Al-Fetori

NICOSIA, Oct. 13 (Reuters) – US federal agents are in Cyprus to inspect a light aircraft, Cypriot police said on Wednesday, suggesting continued international interest in a plane which UN experts say was obtained there two years ago to play a role in the war in Libya. .

The plane, which the United Nations says has been modified to carry weapons, has been in a hangar at an airport in Cyprus since 2019.

In an email response to Reuters’ questions about the aircraft, the Cyprus Transport Ministry provided identification codes that correspond to one of the three aircraft cited in a March 2021 UN report by independent observers of the sanctions on the conflict in Libya.

This report detailed allegations of a private military operation proposed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince in support of Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, then backed by the East, in 2019.

Prince has denied any claims he was involved at any time in operations in Libya.

UN weapons inspectors said the proposal, codenamed Project Opus, had to be scrapped in June 2019 after Haftar was unimpressed with the helicopters purchased for the operation.

Libya has been plagued by rivalry between factions since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, attracting foreign powers. A UN-backed ceasefire was reached last year after Haftar’s 14-month offensive against Tripoli failed.

In Cyprus, a police spokesperson said US federal agents, acting in cooperation with the United Nations, inspected the plane on Tuesday.

Cyprus initially told the global body that it had no record of the plane landing there in July 2019, according to the UN report from March 2021. Two officials from the Ministry of Transport have stated that this was due to incorrect identification codes transmitted by the United Nations.

His presence in Cyprus was later clarified in a subsequent communication with the United Nations, one said.

“It is kept safely at Paphos airport,” said an official from the Ministry of Transport. He has not left the island since arriving in 2019, the official added.

Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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