By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military contractor is currently under intense scrutiny ever since US Africa Command (AFRICOM) presented evidence that the group is behind the numerous landmines and booby traps laid in and around Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
Last week, AFRICOM made the following statement: ““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.” It added: “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.” The mercenaries linked through recent reports to Russian President Vladimir Putin, were first deployed into Libya in 2019 to fight for warlord Khalifa Haftar who Russia along with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and France have been supporting.
Meanwhile, those individuals and companies with ties to the group have been hit with new sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department said sanctions were placed on three people and five entities linked to the mercenary group. The group is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin who is already under American sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said the new sanctions target previously non-sanctioned organizations who assist him. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said: “Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his network are exploiting Sudan’s natural resources for personal gain and spreading malign influence around the globe.” Mnuchin added: “The United States remains committed to holding him and other bad actors, accountable so Sudan and other countries can operate freely.”
In addition, Operations Director of Command, General Bradford Gering said the group is displaying a blatant disregard for the security and safety of the Libyan people. Gering said Russian involvement in Libya is simply prolonging the conflict. He said the Wagner Group is directly responsible for civilian deaths as well as suffering. Gering added that Russia has the power to stop the group but “just not the will.” The command’s Director of Intelligence, Heidi Berg said that her intelligence shows Russia’s continued involvement and meddling in Libya along with the Wagner Group is only causing unnecessary misery to the Libyan people.
Earlier, U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Affairs of the Near East, David Schenker said the U.S. has a plan to work with European countries to place sanctions on Wagner Group, pointing out the “spectre of large-scale civilian killings” by the group. The Wagner Group was instrumental in assisting Russia achieve its military goals in Ukraine, Sudan, Syria and Libya