Italy Confiscates a Shipment of Chinese Drones Disguised as Wind Turbines

( — Italy has recently discovered a shipment from China that could violate a United Nations embargo, raising concerns about a potential conflict escalation in Libya.

Italian authorities confiscated a shipment en route to Libya from China, which labeled the cargo as wind turbine parts. Upon further inspection, Italian authorities discovered Chinese military-grade drones with surveillance and weaponry. The shipment violates a United Nations embargo on Libya regarding armament due to the country’s ongoing political conflict between Libyan General Khalifa Haftar and Libya’s current government.

The discovery occurred on June 18, when Italian officials temporarily confiscated three shipping containers from a Chinese ship, the MSC Arina. Italian authorities also seized three more shipping containers from a different boat, the MSC Apolline, which contained suspicious cargo. The confiscated shipping containers held multiple disassembled Chinese Wing Loong drones intentionally mislabeled as dismantled wind turbine parts. Italian authorities intercepted the shipment before it could reach a different ship and travel to its final destination, Benghazi, Libya.

Although Italian authorities managed to intercept the drones, the discovery occurred during a routine cargo inspection, raising concerns that prior shipments avoided detection and entered General Haftar’s possession. Geopolitical experts cite the United Nations embargo as proof of China’s attempt to arm Haftar and prepare him for the looming Libyan civil war, which initially ended in 2020 but could resume if Haftar gains military power. Haftar controls the Libyan National Army, which holds significant power in eastern Libya and could reignite his offensive against the United Nations-backed Government of National Unity in Libya’s western regions.

Some intelligence officials believe China’s attempt at arming Haftar stems from a desired exchange between the Libyan National Army and China’s government: weaponry for Libyan oil. China’s decision to sell Libyan drones is a clear violation of the United Nations’ attempt to limit the weaponry entering Libya and could result in potential consequences if an investigation proves China’s government knew of the shipment.

China isn’t the only country attempting to arm Haftar and the Libyan National Army, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided armaments to Haftar’s army several times over the last few years. Haftar is an essential ally for countries that wish to expand their operations in Africa, such as Russia, which has several ongoing operations and military installations on the African continent. The shipments from Russia and China have likely emboldened Haftar and prompted renewed concerns about the Libyan civil war restarting.

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