Italy Trains Libyan Soldiers against Migrants – by Antonio Mazzeo

Italy trains Libyan soldiers against migrants

 Antonio Mazzeo

Tradotto da  Francesco Giannatiempo

Editato da  John Catalinotto

The first contingent of Libyan soldiers are already in Italy for training, mainly with the purpose of surveillance and repelling the migratory flow. What’s involved are 340 men undergoing out a 14-weeks training course at Cassino (Frosinone – Latium), with the Italian Army 80th Regiment doing the volunteer training.


The operation is the result of the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between Italy and Libya in the Defense sector, signed in Rome on the 28th May 2012. According to the spokesman of the Italian Ministry of  Defense, the training courses provide for the “education in Italy of several groups, staggered over time, and coming from the Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan regions”. The drilling programme- managed by a mixed staff  belonging to Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabinieri-  is, furthermore, part of the initiatives for “reconstructing” the Libyan armed and security forces, as stated during the G8 summit that took place at Lough Erne (Northern Ireland), in June 2013. Specifically, both Italy and Great  Britain committed themselves to train 2.000 Libyan soldiers per year; 6.000 troops  will be trained in the United States, while France will be involved in the police forces training.


The operations will be carried out partly in Libya itself by a team integrated in the Italian Mission in Libya (MIL, Missione Italiana in Libia) – officially launched on October 1,   2013 as an “evolution” of Operation “Cyrene”, that was started after the fall of the Muammar Gadhafi  regime. Actually, the MIL provides for a considerable increase of the staff to employ (up to a hundred people); for its  operational goal, “The  Italian Mission in Libya has the authority to arrange, lead and coordinate the drilling, supporting and consultancy activities in the Defence sector”, as explained by the Chief of Staff, Admiral Luigi Binelli Mantelli. “It is divided into a permanent joint core element  and  an ad hoc element made up of mobile teams, to train and support depending on the need identified by the Libyan armed forces from time to time”. The strategic escalation  of Italy’s new presence in Libya is backed up by the financial resources put into play by the Letta Government: while in the former nine months of 2013, “Cyrene” cost  7.5 million Euros, during the last  quarter October-December the MIL mission burned up   more than 5 million.

The first significant training activities in Libya were  started in December 2012, when about twenty police officers were admitted to a four-week  course arranged by the Carabinieri. corps The subjects discussed: “managing public order, operational intervention techniques, check point, searches, arrests, handling and using weapons, first aid, bodyguard and protection, self-defense, combating improvised explosive  devices, etc.”. Over the whole of 2013, there followed further courses planned and managed by a training mission consisting of officers and  non-commissioned officers belonging to the 2nd Mobile Brigade of Carabinieri. The Carabinieri corps also supervised also the training of the Libyan “public order batallions” and of the Border Guard which is responsible for borders and national strategic sites.

About thirty soldiers of the new-formed border guard were dispatched to a 10 weeks training course at Coespu (Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units) in Vicenza – that is the training school of police forces of African and Asian countries, run by the Carabinieri, but also used by specialized staff of Africom – the USA military command for African operations. During the spring of 2013, another  thirty Border Guard and Libyan Police officers took part in a course about the “conventional explosive clearance” and in a course about the “maintenance” of the “Pumas” — armoured aircrafts for transport and fight — at the Engineer Corps and at the Army Logistic Headquarters in Velletri (Rome), –  . Twenty of those aircraft, produced by the Fiat Iveco-Oto Melara consortium, were delivered “free of charge” to Libyans on February 6, 2013, during the visit of the former Minister of Defence – Admiral Di Paola. On that date, Italy and Libya reached a provisional agreement over the future programmes for military units and police forces drilling, and, as Di Paola explained, “for cooperation – even technological – in the activities for the control of illegal immigration, for a national support for reconstruction of the naval sector, for surveillance and integrated control of the state boundaries”. 

In order to strengthen Italy-Libya relations, a group of Libyan Navy representatives, in July 2013 was hosted  at the Navy Academy in Livorno, at the Navy helicopter base in Luni and at the  Mine Countermeasures Forces Headquarters (COMFORDRAG) in La Spezia. And, at the end of October, Tripoli’s authorities announced that  they intended to renew the collaboration with Rome and with the Selex ES (Finmeccanica group) factory in order to install radar surveillance and electronic monitoring systems for  the Libya coastline and  the Niger, Chad and Sudan borders costing Eur 300 million.

The contract was signed on October 7, 2009 during the Muammar Gheddafi regime, but it was broken in 2011 after the payment of only Eur 150 million. Selex ES, in partnership with GEM Elettronica, is to provide for the installation of a Land Scout  radar network “able even to detect  groups of people moving about on foot”, and will carry out the training of Libyan operators and maintenance workers. According to the specialized website Analisi Difesa [Defense Analysis], Libyans intend to equip themselves with an unspecified “aerial monitoring of the frontiers” that would include the buying of the “Falco”, also manufactured by the Italian manufacturer Selex.

“Italian military experts to Libya”: on the board the names of the most famous Italian military defeats in the two world wars of the twentieth century – Enzo Apicella, 2011

That pilotless aerial vehicles are considered the new technological frontier for the wars against migrants and migration launched by the Libyan and Italian armed forces, was proven by the last “technical agreement” of bilateral cooperation signed in Rome on November28, 2013,  by the two Ministers of Defence, Mario Mauro and Abdullah Al-Thinni. This memorandum authorizes the use of remote-flying Italian aircraft for missions supporting the Libyan authorities for  the “control activities” of the country’s southern border. What is involved are the  Predator drones, property of the 32th Formation  of the Air Force Base in Amendola (Foggia), re-deployed at Sigonella and Trapani-Birgi  (Sicily) during the operation “Mare Nostrum” for control and surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to the Predators, the immigrants’ transport vehicles will be intercepted when moving through the Sahara desert; and the Libyan troops  will be able to promptly intervene  in order  to jail and deport them before they can reach the coastal towns.

Still according to what the Italian Ministry of Defense said at the end of the bilateral summit last November 28: “With the perspective of a development of the capacity of  the maritime  surveillance and security system, the possibility emerged for the Libyan officers to be taken on board  Italian naval units  engaged  in the operation “Mare Nostrum”, as well as  to start training courses up over  the use of  the V-RMTC (Virtual Maritime Traffic Centre)”. That is, the Letta Government  is trying to allow troops  from  a country black-listed for  human rights violations  to participate, on board of the amphibious assault ship “San Marco” and on the other Italian rocket frigates, in the (illegitimate) operations for identification and the (even more illegitimate) interrogations of all those who are to be “saved” in the Sicily Strait, being. 

The “San Marco”amphibious assault  ship

“With the drawing up of the new agreements between the Libyan Minister of Defense and Mario Mauro, the true target of the ‘Mare Nostrum’ mission comes to light; [a mission] less and less humanitarian”, commented the jurist Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo of Palermo University. “Together  with the already operative Ministry of  Internal Affairs officials it could be possible for the Libyan police officers to be taken on board, with devastating effects on the fate of the shipwrecked persons picked up in the sea – everyone of them potential asylum seekers, and exposed more and more to the risk of violent identification and to the consequent repulsion to Libya. Therefore, what happened  in 2009 could reoccur, when the Italian Financial Police drove dozens of immigrants back to Libya. For these actions Italy has already been condemned by the European Court for Human Rights in 2012”.

Photos and video: courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Defence

Per concessione di Tlaxcala
Data dell’articolo originale: 12/01/2014
URL dell’articolo:
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