Turkey is continuing to send weapons to war-torn Libya in violation of the United Nations (UN) arms embargo and an agreement reached on January 19 to stop fuelling the civil war by foreign powers, BBC’s investigative journalists reported on Thursday.
The report by BBC Africa Eye allegedly showed Turkey violated the January 19 ceasefire deal in Berlin barely five days later when it dispatched the cargo ship Bana, laden with arms from its port of Mersin.
The ship’s reported destination was the Tunisian port of Gabes. However, the Bana vanished from the radar on January 27 as it approached the coast of Libya because its transponder was allegedly turned off.
In the report, the BBC provided evidence showing where the ship headed following its disappearance from radar as well as evidence of the cargo it was carrying.
A satellite image on January 28 showed the Bana escorted by two other ships off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean.
Based on dimensions and color schemes of the three ships, the one in the center was determined to be the Bana, while the two other vessels escorting it were G-Class military frigates, which are only used by the Turkish navy across the world, the BBC report said.
A satellite on January 29 picked up the Bana docked at the port of Tripoli, this time without the frigates.
BBC also showed video and photos footage allegedly taken in Bana’s hold and from its bridge, with the dimensions in the images all matching those of the Bana.
The different videos, all with the same configuration of vehicles, filmed in the hold of the Bana and showed a series of weapons, including armored combat vehicles (ACV-15), cannons (GDF), self-propelled howitzers (T-155), anti-aircraft gun (Korkut).
Whereas, those taken in the bridge pictured one of the frigates seen through the bridge window of the Bana.
Further, the report published statements of the Bana crews who were questioned by the Italian authorities when the ship reached the Italian port of Genoa three days after it left Tripoli.
In the police questionings, the crew members confirmed that the Bana was carrying arms. They also added detail to the BBC report, saying that each weapon was guarded by ten Turkish soldiers during loading in Mersin.
In addition, the images taken by the Italians in the Bana evidence that tied up with those in the previous videos filmed when the weapons were still on board, such as a unique pattern of damage left on a ramp from the tracked vehicle.
The Turkish government has not yet responded to the allegations put to it by BBC, the report said.
On February 4, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the behavior of some member states without specifically mentioning the name.
“Meanwhile, Security Council resolutions are being disrespected even before the ink is dry,” the UN chief said, referring to the ceasefire talks on January 19 which were allegedly broken by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey is deemed to be one of the six countries that have sent weapons, money or men into the Libyan civil war.
The foreign players supporting the Libyan National Army (LNA), which holds most of the country under control, are Russia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), the other faction of the conflict which holds the capital city of Tripoli, has been backed by Turkey and Qatar.
Until recently, Erdogan had stressed that Turkish forces were not fighting in Libya but rather providing coordination to the GNA.
However, late in February, Erdogan accepted that his country had “several martyrs”, confirming also that there were fighters in Libya from the Syrian National Army, a Turkey-backed rebel group fighting against pro-Damascus forces in northern Syria.
“Those going from Syria, from the Syrian National Army there, have a common goal. They are there within the framework of these common goals… Our brothers who are with us in Syria see being there with us as an honor,” Erdogan asserted at the time.
Then, in a news conference, the Turkish president also slammed a Turkish reporter from FOX TV questioning why the names and positions of the martyrs in Libya were not being announced.
“Firstly, FOX should become a serious media outlet. Stop producing fake news,” Erdogan retorted.
Earlier this month, six journalists were arrested in Turkey for revealing the identity of a Turkish intelligence officer, who apparently died in clashes in Libya.
The six are OdaTV’s editor-in-chief Baris Pehlivan, news director Baris Terkoglu, and reporter Hulya Kilinc, as well as Murat Agirel from the pro-Turkish daily Yenicag, executive director Ferhat Celik, and editor-in-chief Aydin Keser from the pro-Kurdish daily Yeni Yasam.