As discussed in this earlier piece, Kalashnikov AK-103s have been sighted in the hands of both pro-Qadhafi forces, and the rebels/National Transitional Council in Libya recently. I had advanced a theory that the rifles had either been sent from Russia, as pre-production samples related to this arms deal, or been manufactured in Libya for the same reasons. Nicholas Marsh, from the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) picked up the story and has since been keeping an eye on it.
As Marsh points out in a recent post, an August 31st photo in the New York Times (detail of which is above) shows AK-103s resting in a crate bearing some interesting shipping information. Most notable is the supplier, ‘Rosoboronexport’, the Russian state-owned arms exporter. The customer is listed as ‘Procurement Department, Tripoli, Libya’. The ports of origin and arrival are consistent with what would be expected. There appear to be ten rifles in the crate, the standard shipping number, and what appears to be wax paper can be seen at right.
The crate pictured is numbered as #6524 out of 11380. Working on 10 rifles per crate, that equates to 113,800 from this particular contract.
Of course, to be certain that these assault rifles were actually contained within the crate shown we would need some more information from someone on the ground. Ideally, we could match the contract number on the crate to the relevant paperwork, and see what the crates originally contained. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done. I have sent an email to Rosoboronexport seeking further details, but it is highly unlikely I will receive a response.
But, as Marsh rightly points out, for the purposes of providing a pointer to where further research is required, this photo is enough for us to assume the rifles were sent to Libya under an authorised export deal with Russia.