components of SAM  missiles

Reports in social media websites said on Tuesday that two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been discovered just outside Tripoli University which prompted security authorities to briefly close down the university road until the objects were defused. However, later that day media reports quoted Tripoli security officials as denying that the objects were IEDs or that they posed threat to civilians’ safety.

The story could have ended here, yet a statement posted yesterday on the Facebook page of a government agency called ‘The Explosives Office of the National Safety Authority’ offered a different account: “Members of the bomb disposal team have removed two bombs found near the traffic light of Tripoli University after they have been defused by experts from the Public Investigation Department and the Tripoli Security Directorate… Your safety is always our goal,” said the statement. Some on social media continued to question it insisting that the strange looking objects were nothing but water boilers.

The Libya Times reached out to Stijn Mitzer, co-author of the Oryx Blog who did not disappoint and identified them as “components of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)” produced by the Soviet Union.

S-300 surface-to-air missile system (L and R)

A quick open source search showed possible resemblance to the S-300 surface-to-air missile system of which "two brigades of four missile batteries each" should have been delivered to the Gaddafi regime by the end of 2010, according to Debka File website. The website claimed that Gaddafi’s last Defence Minister, Abubaker Younis Jaber, visited Moscow in January 2010 where he signed “a $2 billion military acquisitions deal that makes his country the first in the Middle East to obtain the top-of-the-line S-300 PMU-2 interceptors which Russia is holding back from Iran. Debka File's military sources report that Tripoli has purchased two brigades of four missile batteries each, conditional on their delivery by the end of 2010.”

However, Mr Mitzer has confirmed that they are not components of the S-300 missile system, adding that the objects have been used as IEDs before, and are likely capable of inflicting serious damage.

Regardless of their exact technical details and to which particular SAM model they belong, the real question is who disassembled those missiles and why? Extremist Islamist groups in Libya have in the past used aircraft munition and missile components to make explosive devices including car-bombs.

The other question is why were they dumped on the side of one of Tripoli’s busiest auto roads? Was this some sort of delivery method in which the objects were supposed to be collected by someone who shouldn't be known to the person that put them there? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.