A multinational organisation that sells weapons systems to Iraq and Syria and ships shipments of munitions via the Cypriot ports of Limassol and Larnaca has a Canadian-Lebanese member.
On Friday Reuters reported that the Cypriot police are investigating the late summer transfer of mortar shells that landed near a Lebanese town that the group is accused of transporting. All of the shells eventually made their way to Syria and could be used by the Islamic State (Isis) militant group. Reuters noted that the container that the shell was packed into was smaller than a 40×40 card.
Illegally exported items are a key source of profit for rogue armed groups and terrorist organisations, and the vast majority of those items are recovered in conflict zones after having been resold.
In Lebanon, the identity of the owner of the Australian-owned company – MASAD – is unknown. In documents seen by Reuters, the company acknowledges that a Cypriot company acted as an intermediary to ship munitions from Australia to Lebanon in 2014 and 2015. In at least one transaction, some of the guns were reportedly transferred to China. According to reports, on 1 August 2014 a Cyprus-registered storage facility that could hold as many as 870,000 items was being used as a shipment point in an effort to bypass Syrian border security checks.
Convicted FARC guerrillas at a hearing in Bogota, Colombia. Photograph: Carlos Martens/Reuters
Last August, a group of roughly 100 containers containing dozens of high-powered guns landed on the shores of the Lebanese town of Arsal, on the border with Syria. The rockets were destined for Russia, which has leased four heavy-lift military transport planes to transport the arms to Syria.
That same month, the Lebanese-American journalist Talal Hamadeh published online a list of the names and companies involved in the sale of 431 powerful weapons, including surface-to-air missiles and tanks. These weapons are also involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with other conflicts around the world. An analysis by the independent blog Kashmir Media Service indicates that the Syrian army has continued to use these weapons as it battles to quell a civil war.
This week, Israel announced it had carried out its first airstrikes against the Syrian regime, which is reportedly using these weapons. The Israeli military cited the group’s use of banned weapons as one of the reasons for its action.
Last year, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that a company with links to the Philippines was believed to be supporting a new international organization that has fought against legal action against the war crimes of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. The organization, which has been operating in secret, distributed weapons to some of the most brutal organizations on the planet, including the Philippines’ ISIS-linked militants.