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Italian Officials Seize Chinese Drone Parts Bound For Libya

Two military drones were found at a port disguised as wind turbine parts, Italian officials said; they were seized because of a UN embargo linked to Libya’s civil war

Italian tax police and customs officials seized what they said were Chinese drone components at the Port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria (Italian govt image).


Authorities in Italy said this week they intercepted two Chinese-made military drones destined for Libya that were disguised as wind turbine equipment.

The drone parts were found in six containers at the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria in the country’s south, a statement by customs officials said.

The items were impounded because the civil war in Libya is subject to an international arms embargo imposed by the United Nations, it said.


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“The components were hidden among composite material replicas of wind turbine blades to conceal them and avoid checks,” Italian tax police and customs officials said in a statement.

Each drone was more than 10 metres long, with a wingspan of about 20 metres and weighed over 3 tons, according to Italian authorities. The description matches reports by sources that the drones were Chinese Wing Loong II unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the Defense News website.

One of the drones featured the slogan “The energy saving world” written along its side, as seen in the image above.

Reuters said the statement on Tuesday appeared to confirm a report last month by Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper indicating that the interception took place in Gioia Tauro on June 18, after a tip-off from US intelligence.

The material was seized from a container ship coming from the southern Chinese port of Yantian and on its way to Benghazi, an eastern Libya port controlled by military commander Khalifa Haftar, the daily said, citing “strong” US suspicions.

The discovery followed a Canadian police operation in April, which led to two Libyan men resident in Canada being  charged with conspiracy to buy Chinese drones with Libyan crude oil.

Libya descended into chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, and is split between rival administrations in the east and west.

In related news, there was also a report this week of Chinese and Russian officials working on an unmanned aircraft or attack drone modeled on the Shahad drone made by Iran, possibly for use in Ukraine.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing from Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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