The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Wednesday it had clear evidence that Russian employed, state-sponsored Wagner Group laid landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in and around Tripoli, further violating the United Nations arms embargo and endangering the lives of innocent Libyans.
“Verified photographic evidence shows indiscriminately placed booby-traps and minefields around the outskirts of Tripoli down to Sirte since mid-June. These weapons are assessed to have been introduced into Libya by the Wagner Group.” AFRICOM indicated.
“The Russian-state sponsored Wagner Group is demonstrating a total disregard for the safety and security of Libyans,” said Bradford Gering, director of operations at AFRICOM, adding that Wagner Group’s irresponsible tactics are prolonging conflict and are responsible for the needless suffering and the deaths of innocent civilians.
“Russia has the power to stop them, just not the will.” He explained.
AFRICOM also remarked that Russia’s introduction of landmines, booby traps, attack aircraft, and their continued support of the 2,000-person strong Wagner Group in Libya changes the nature of the current conflict and intensifies the potential risk to non-combatants.
“Our intelligence reflects continued and unhelpful involvement by Russia and the Wagner Group,” said Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence, referring to the mercenaries fighting for warlord Khalifa Haftar and his militias.
“Imagery and intelligence assessments show how Russia continues to interfere in Libyan affairs. Wagner Group’s reckless use of landmines and booby-traps are harming innocent civilians.” Berg said.
According to the US AFRICOM, Russia’s use of PMCs in Libya is just part of a long history of using these non-state actors as tools of power projection, adding that Russian-sponsored PMCs are active in sixteen countries across Africa.