Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sniper Rifles

Proof SA sold rifles to Libya

Damning video evidence has emerged, proving for the first time that sniper rifles made in South Africa are being used in Libya’s bloody civil war by forces loyal to embattled dictator ­Muammar Gaddafi.

The revelations come amid continued refusals by South Africa to divulge the details of conventional arms sales to Libya’s repressive government – which totalled nearly R69m last year.

Video clips circulating on the internet and filmed as battles raged in the city of Misrata in north-western Libya earlier this year show rebel fighters displaying captured sniper rifles. The weapons have been identified as the work of a Midrand armoury, Truvelo Manufacturers.

One undated video, which ­appears to have been filmed on a cellphone camera, shows a rebel holding a Truvelo rifle fitted with a sound suppressor.

A similar rifle can also be seen in an Al-Jazeera news report filed on May 29.

Manufactured in Midrand

Tom Wolmarans, a former ­policeman and independent ­forensic expert, said the rifles in the video clips had at least “seven or eight” unique identifying ­“attributes”.

He said it was “highly likely” the rifles had been manufactured by Truvelo.

A leading South African firearms expert speaking on condition of anonymity said four key points of comparison indicated the weapons were Truvelo sniper rifles.

These included:
» An adjustment screw visible on the inside of the butt;
» A “rest pod” under the front part of the butt;
» The “very distinctive half-oval cheek piece”; and
» The shape of the grip.

The National Conventional Arms Control Committee has repeatedly stonewalled questions about the sale of about 120 sniper rifles and between 50 000 and 70 000 rounds of ammunition to Libya in October last year, just months before the country descended into violence.

Answer questions

An estimated 15 000 people have been killed in four months of fighting in Libya and there have been reports of snipers killing ­civilians, children and even mourners at funerals.

Last week Justice Minister Jeff Radebe – the chairperson of the committee – once again failed to answer questions about the sale of sniper rifles to Libya, confirming only that “Category A” weapons had been exported to Libya.

Category A weapons are defined as “major conventional implements of war that could cause heavy personnel casualties”.

Truvelo director Ralf Gebert has also steadfastly refused to comment on the company’s business dealings with Libya.

“There are procedures in South Africa we follow. We stick to the rules and regulations. We are not prepared to say yes or no. If the conventional arms control committee wants to divulge any information they are entitled to do so,” he said this week.

Went to Libya

Truvelo was among the South African companies that attended the Libdex arms expo in Libya in November 2008. References to the event have been removed from Truvelo’s main website.

DA defence spokesperson ­David Maynier – who has repeatedly called on Radebe to answer questions about the sale of sniper rifles to Libya – said South Africa “should never have sold weapons to a serial human rights violating country such as Libya”.

The sale of sniper rifles to Libya first came under scrutiny in February when Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, a member of the arms committee, claimed to have no knowledge of the sales.

Radebe subsequently admitted that the committee had authorised arms sales to Libya last year and said “at the time . . . there was no evidence . . . there would be ­political unrest in that country”.

He said the exports were not at odds with legislation governing conventional arms sales which stipulates that South Africa “will not trade in conventional arms with states engaged in repression, aggression or terrorism”.

And he stated there was “no evidence to back up” claims linking deaths in Libya to arms sold by South African companies. He said a confidentiality clause prevented the committee from providing details about arms sales contracts.

Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, responded to questions about the Libyan arms deal with a copy of Radebe’s earlier statement, which makes no mention of the words “sniper” or “rifles”.

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