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Report: Many missiles go missing in Libya

Wayne Lomax
Wayne Lomax, with one of Qaddafi's abandoned missiles, in Tripoli. CBS News

The White House said Tuesday it was ramping up efforts to secure Libya's many unguarded bombs, missiles and munitions.

The move comes after an ABC News report speculating that there could be as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles missing. That figure represents the total number of SAMs estimated to be in Qaddafi's possession before his ouster, although the exact number there were, as well as the exact number currently "missing," remains unclear.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reported last week on the efforts of a non-profit attempting to secure those munitions - a MAG team funded by the U.S. State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

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The MAG team's leader, Wayne Lomax, told CBS News there was a real concern about the munitions ending up in terrorists' hands, as North African smuggling routes are stocked with al Qaeda-like groups.

The ABC report focuses on heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles, similar to the one used to target a DHL plane in Baghdad in 2003.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch has been talking about the issues for many months now.

He recently told the Associated Press that lots of munitions appear to have been hidden in civilian buildings to avoid airstrikes by NATO.

At one unguarded site, Bouckaert said he found 100,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Elsewhere, he found weapons caches hidden under fruit trees.

"The problem is that the locals usually find out first and by the time we arrive and we can get some guards there, a lot of the most dangerous weapons have already been taken away," he said.

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