A new report from the United Nations says weapons are being shipped out of Libya at "an alarming rate" and are adding to the arsenals of extremists and criminals in places such as Syria, the Gaza Strip, and Mali.
The report says the north African country has become a key supplier of weapons for the region, as its government continues to struggle to exert its authority following the 2011 downfall of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
According to the report, investigations show that illicit arms transfers from Libya have involved more than 12 countries.
It said portable air-defense systems, explosives, mines, small arms and ammunition are among the weapons that have been transferred.
The report to the UN Security Council said: "Libya has over the past two years become a significant and attractive source of weaponry."
The 94-page report was prepared by the Security Council’s Group of Experts, which monitors the international arms embargo on Libya.
The panel said its investigators made 28 visits to 15 countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, including 10 visits to Libya, to compile the report.
Weapons and ammunition flowed into Libya -- despite the arms embargo -- as opposition forces mounted the NATO-backed rebellion that led to Qaddafi’s ouster and eventual killing.
The panel said it examined evidence of the delivery of weapons and ammunition from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to support anti-Qaddafi forces, in apparent violation of the embargo.
The report said that because of weak governance, "civilians and brigades remain in control of most of the weapons” in Libya.
It said the lack of an “effective security system" remains one of the primary obstacles to securing arms and controlling Libya’s borders.
It said the availability of arms from Libya appears to be allowing extremist armed groups in the region to strengthen their positions in various conflicts with national authorities.
It said the illicit trading has generated "considerable money-making opportunities for traffickers."
Concerning transfers of arms to participants in the civil war in Syria, the report says such operations have been organized from various locations in Libya, including Misrata and Benghazi, via Turkey or northern Lebanon.
The report said arms transfers from Libya to Egypt also appeared to have increased significantly, with some of these weapons eventually winding up with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas.
Security in the Sinai desert region, which borders Israel, has deteriorated since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in an uprising two years ago.
The report cites the case of a transfer of ammunition to Libya involving the United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Albania, and Ukraine.
It said arms from Libya also helped fuel the conflict in Mali. French forces launched an operation in January that routed Malian Islamists who had seized control of a significant portion of the country.
The report also referred to cases involving Sudan and the reported transfer of a drone to the Libyan opposition by a Canadian company. Canadian authorities say that case is under investigation.
With reporting by Reuters and AP