The founder of the controversial military company Blackwater and Trump supporter Erik Prince is said to be behind a mercenary mission in Libya. That emerges from UN documents.
According to a confidential UN report, a well-known Trump supporter and founder of the US military company Blackwater was one of the main participants in a secret mercenary operation in Libya. According to a panel of experts at the United Nations, Erik Prince proposed a military operation to the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar in Cairo in April 2019, which should help the general in his fight against the internationally recognized government of the country. The UN report, which was presented to the Security Council on Thursday, is available in parts to the German Press Agency.
Accordingly, this so-called “Operation Opus” was supposed to support Haftar during his march on the government in Tripoli with armed aircraft, reconnaissance flights, boats and a program for the kidnapping and killing of high-ranking enemy persons. Prince then brought war planes to Libya and thus violated the arms embargo for the civil war country.
Informal adviser to Donald Trump
The German Press Agency had already reported on the mission in May, citing UN experts – but without the information that Prince should have been closely associated with her. The former elite soldier had repeatedly attracted attention in recent years with close contacts with ex-President Donald Trump and his environment. At the end of 2019, Prince had been called an “informal advisor” to Trump by the Wall Street Journal. He is also the brother of former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. A violation of an arms embargo imposed by the UN can result in sanctions against individuals, including freezing bank accounts or travel bans.
“Operation Opus” was carried out in Libya in the summer of 2019 by mainly western mercenaries from Australia, among others – Erik Prince apparently played a central role in the planning and logistics. According to the UN, the people were in the service of security companies in the United Arab Emirates. At the end of June, at least 20 people boarded a turboprop cargo plane in Amman, Jordan. They came from Australia, France, Malta, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA.
Mercenaries fought with General Haftar
Their destination was Benghazi in the east of the civil war country – the stronghold of the once powerful General Chalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli in the west in 2019. There he wanted to overthrow the internationally recognized unity government of the country, which was also supported by the USA and large parts of the West. Haftar’s allies, however, included the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia, France and Egypt. Despite the embargo, many of these countries sent weapons and mercenaries to the country, which by then had long been a proxy war.
But Haftar’s march on Tripoli got stuck and was finally repulsed, which was also due to foreign support for the unity government from Italy, Qatar and Turkey, among others. The following loss of power by Haftar contributed to the recent development towards peace: Most recently, representatives of both conflicting parties elected a new joint transitional government after months of negotiations – it is supposed to pave the way for nationwide elections in December.
Prince is said to have delivered aircraft
During the heatedest phase of the battle for Tripoli, Haftar – as the UN report suggests – apparently turned to the high profile military networker Prince. The United Nations experts bring three aircraft used in “Operation Opus” into connection with the American: an “Antonov AN-26B” from a Bermuda company, a LASA T-Bird light attack aircraft from a Bulgarian company and a Pilatus PC-6 ISR aircraft from an Austrian company.
The companies that owned these planes were “controlled” by Prince and were used in the operation before they were paid for. “Nobody else has been able to arrange the sale of these aircraft within such a short time frame,” the UN experts conclude.
For his critics, Erik Prince is symbolic of the crossings of private military companies in war zones around the world. In 2007, employees of the Blackwater company he founded killed 14 unarmed civilians in Iraq. The four private workers sentenced to prison terms were pardoned by former US President Donald Trump shortly before Christmas.
According to UN experts, however, “Operation Opus” never really gained a foothold in Libya and was suddenly canceled less than a week after its start. The group boarded boats in the port of Benghazi and arrived in Malta after a 15-hour journey across the Mediterranean Sea. The decision to evacuate was made by the UN experts because General Haftar was dissatisfied with the military equipment he had procured and threatened the mercenaries.
According to the new UN report, members of “Operation Opus” were brought back to Libya in April and May 2020 “to locate and destroy high-quality targets”. But this attempt had to be canceled because of the government’s superior air defense in the west. According to UN information from last year, the operation was planned and carried out in at least eight countries: the Emirates, Jordan, Malta, Libya, Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the USA.