Mitiga airport, located 11km from Tripoli in Libya was hit on January 5th by bombings from General Haftar’s side. The airport was supposed to cater only for civilian passengers as a true strategic nod towards outside. Yet several sources close to the LNA revealed Turkish troops would have been deployed within the airport to support the GNA. Some videos started circulating on social neworks about a new Turkish anti-aircraft defense system transported from Tripoli and deployed with Mitiga airport premises. These videos are commented on January 18th by the LNA spokesperson.
From this starting point and with the objective of getting the chronology right, open sources research helps building an accumulation of circumstantial evidence showing:
- Turkey could be in violation of the arms embargo on Libya by delivering anti-aircraft defense equipment and introducing new equipment in Libya: Hawk and Korkut
- The vessel transporting this equipment could be MV Single Eagle under the cover of vehicles transportation
- This ship could likely be associated with Lebanese Abou Mehri Group’s German subsidiary (already mentioned in MV BANA article)
A Turkish military equipment delivery: gathering circumstantial evidence
It is difficult using open sources to get rigorous and solid evidence because everything is not available online. Nevertheless it is possible to accumulate circumstantial evidence which can kick start a deeper investigation for investigators and analysts. This second research step would aim at precising/verifying facts and filling some gaps.
The equipment: a new type of Turkish material in Libya
In this case videos and images published on January 17th show an anti-aircraft defense system transported and installed at Mitiga’s airport including:
- Korkut – anti-aircraft vehicule manufactured in Turkey by Aselsan since 2016
– MIM-23 Hawk – a US mid-range anti-aircraft missiles existing in Turkish arsenal and AN MPQ 64 – a US short-range aerial defense radar also in the Turkish arsena. One can wonder to what extent export control would be applied in the circumstances described in our study case?
-Taking some screen shots from the video and performing a reverse image search demonstrate the images are published as of January 17th 2020. Korkut vehicles seem to be introduced in Libya for the first time. This element could help us date the images and potential delivery to around January 17th 2020.
Geolocating the truck
In the background we can see a building with three windows and two small openings. Our hypothesis is that the truck is transporting the korkut from the port to the airport. From this starting point we can try to identify buildings with these specifications.
Identifying the delivery mode
Delivery should be by sea considering the type of heavy equipment. With this hypothesis in mind we can look at vessels docked at Tripoli Port circa January 17th.
Two ships attract our attention: Karim Allah, a livestock transporter type and Vento Di Scirocco, a container transporter type. These are two prime candidates because of their size, foreign origin and fast departure from Tripoli Port. But a quick search online does not bring any relevant result neither links with Turkey or a stop-over at a Turkish port. Actually they do not even switch off their transponder and do not show routes through Turkish waters. But on January 16th 2020 posts emerged on social networks from Libyan accounts mentioning a new boat which excluded from MarineTraffic list: MV Single Eagle.
MV Single Eagle – a ghost ship in Libya
MV Single Eagle (IMO: 8708830) is a vehicle-carrier type of vessel under a Panama flag. In Equasis database Dytamar Shipping Ltd is listed as MV Single Eagle’s owner. The ship is managed by Rana Maritime Services SA and operated by African Mediterranean Lines.
Looking closely to its route around January 17th, we can see it is leaving Mersin in Turkey to a destination supposed to be Hamburg in Germany.
By carefully looking at the boat’s AIS data coming from its transponder (indicating its GPS location on a regular basis) we realize the transponder was turned off on January 15th in the morning and switched back on on January 17th in the afternoon. The vessel could not be tracked for more than 48 hours.
Based on its last registered AIS data on 01/15 we can locate the boat at large of the Libyan coast near Tripoli in direction of the port.
When the team switches back the transponder they are already sailing alongside the Tunisian waters in the direction of Europe.
Therefore we could deduce the delivery took place on January 16th. Looking for coherent circumstantial evidence as we did helps re-directing better investigators.
A car shipping business from Germany to Lebnaon
Looking closely on social networks Single Eagle appears to be familiar of Europe-Libya routes by being a transporter for car sales in Libya.
As mentioned in our previous article the ship’s trips are also posted online by a manager from the company organizing them: African Mediterranean Lines, brand of AML Ship Management gmbh, established in Hamburg in Germany. In a Facebook post published on 01/15, the vessel is announced to go to Misrata and Bengazhi with an expected time of arrival to Germany on 01/27. This post gives us additional confidence the vessel was at Tripoli Port around 01/16.
AML Ship Management gmbh is actually hidden behind African Mediterranean Lines with identified shareholders: Abou Ali Merhi (identified on Facebook) and Josef Nasr.
We can also find a mention of the company linking it to Lebanon on google with the existence at some point in time of a legal entity with the same name in Lebanon.
African Mediterranean Lines SAL Offshore is the name of the legal entity mentioned in Equasis database. We cannont find it in the commercial registry we have acess to. The physical address mentioned refers back to Orient Queens Home, a building where Abou Mehri Cruises offices are also located. We can find the Lebanese businessman – Merhi Abou Ali Mehri. – we mentioned in our MV BANA article in the Lebanese commercial registry. Finally and very simply we notice the same color scheme between Single Eagle and Abou Mehri Lines brand.
We are not able using open sources to link directly Rana Maritime to this Lebanese group. But with the elements we have we can have as an hypothesis that MV Single Eagle could be operated through a leasing agreement betweeen Rana Maritime and Abou Mehri group. This type of financial structure is quite common in such sector. Yet some questions remain. While Abou Mehri CEO recognized being BANA’s owner in an interview for Lebanese TV on January 31st, we can wonder what role does the shipping company really play with this new case study?