Special teams will work to dispose of some of the estimated 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles, which terrorists may seek to use against airliners
A Libyan rebel sits amid stockpiles of ordnance inside a Qaddafi ammunition bunker / Reuters
The U.S. is dispatching weapons experts to work with the Libyan rebels to secure and dispose of the thousands of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles remaining from embattled leader Muammar el-Qaddafi's stockpiles. At the same time, the State Department acknowledged it received information that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb was threatening to attack planes chartered by oil companies in the region.
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The State Department said the U.S. embassy in neighboring Algeria received information about an al-Qaida threat and acted quickly to alert potential targets.
While State did not elaborate on the threat, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. is warning Western oil companies operating in North Africa about the threat relating to weapons, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, that may have been obtained by terrorists in the region.
Since the outbreak of fighting in Libya, U.S. officials have been concerned about the proliferation of weapons--especially an estimated 20,000 of Qaddafi's shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the country--and worried that small arms, ammunition, and explosives could be smuggled out of the country and fall into the hands of those planning terrorist attacks.