A confidential report by the United Nations has revealed a mission, code named Project Opus, by eight countries to prevent Turkey shipping weapons to wartorn Libya, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Monday.
The 80-page report, as relayed from the German Press Agency (dpa) by DW Turkish, said the operation was directed from the United Arab Emirates with the involvement of citizens of Australia, France, Malta, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
At least eight countries, the UAE, Jordan, Malta, Libya, Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the United States, were involved in the planning of the operation, Australian daily Herald Sun reported.
At least ten companies registered in the UAE, British Virgin Islands and Malta took part in it, according to the U.N. report. Another company in South Africa was involved with covering up operatives’ identities.
Special operation units comprised of private security firms, disguised as geophysics and hyperspectral research teams, were tasked with raiding Turkish ships off the shore of Libya, according to the report, to stop Turkey delivering weapons to the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) under Libyan leader Fayez al Sarraj.
Turkish military officers were sent to Libya to assist Sarraj’s defence against an offensive by his opponent General Khalifa Haftar that accelerated in April last year with support from Russia to take control of Tripoli. Turkey has also sent Syrian militiamen to Libya to support Sarraj’s forces on the ground.
Cover for the operatives involved in the operation as researchers was facilitated by Jordan, and a team of at least 20 operatives went from Jordan’s capital Amman to Libya’s Benghazi province, controlled by Haftar, in a cargo plane by late June, 2019.
Project Opus aimed to provide Haftar with “the ability to interrupt the sea route for weapons from Turkey to the unity government in Tripoli,” Germany’s ARD Tagesschau quoted the U.N. report as saying.
Transcripts of talks among the group were included in the report, stating that their mission was to “enter and search through enemy supply ships.” They also mention a “maritime attack group.”
The report cited the possibility of the secret operations being handled by UAE-based companies, and refers to two companies named Lancaster6 and Opus Capital Asset.
These companies, according to the report, purchased six military helicopters in South Africa in June 2019, which were delivered through Botswana to Libya.
Opus Capital Asset simultaneously rented two inflatable military boats in Malta for 90 days, at the price of 5,000 euros a day. These boats and helicopters were fitted with machine guns, the report said, and the boats were transported to Benghazi on June 27.
The special operations team then left Amman via plane and landed in southern Benghazi, where they were situated in a house guarded by local militia.
The operation was cut short on July 2, when the team travelled by military boats from Benghazi to Malta’s capital Valetta. The report also said one of the boats had been left behind in Benghazi due to damage.
U.N.’s experts who wrote the report said the operation’s background had still not been brought to light, and the reason for the evacuation and why valuable equipment was left behind in Libya had not been investigated yet. The group’s cover was that the researchers were working in the oil sector and had been forced to abruptly leave Libya due to security reasons.
The authority responsible for Project Opus was not made clear in the report, while the UAE’s permanent representative for the U.N. did not respond to questions, DW Turkish said. The two companies cited in the report have not responded to questions either.