The US private security contractor and former head of Blackwater Worldwide, Erik Prince, has tried to help warlord Khalifa Haftar take control of Libya and “at the very least” helped evade a UN arms embargo on the country, the UN Panel of Experts said in a report published Tuesday.
The report indicated that Prince met Haftar in Cairo days after the war on Tripoli had begun, adding that Prince made a proposal for a private military intervention with an alleged $80m contract that included assault aircraft, cyber capabilities and the ability to intercept Turkish ships at sea.
“One component of the operation, dubbed Project Opus, was to “kidnap or terminate individuals regarded as high value targets in Libya”, said the UN Panel of Experts.
The report explained that Prince had violated a Security Council resolution on Libya “in that, at the very least, he assisted in the evasion of the provisions of the arms embargo in Libya”.
The Panel of Experts’ report said three UAE companies were used for the planning, management and finance of the operation, and it named a South African citizen as the team leader on the ground.
The UN report said military aircraft for “Project Opus” were to be procured from Jordan, but senior officials in the kingdom cancelled the sale after they suspected they would be used in an illegal operation.
“Six former military helicopters were bought from South Africa and three other aircraft were supplied by companies controlled by Prince,” according to the UN’s experts.
The report added that “Project Opus”, quickly ran into trouble because “Khalifa Haftar was unimpressed with the replacement aircraft procured for the operation and made threats against the team management.”
“Within days of their arrival in Libya, 20 mercenaries had to be evacuated in a hurry across the sea to Malta aboard two inflatable boats originally bought for the operation.” The UN report explained.