With the fall of Libya's main international airport, and the utter chaos that has enveloped that country in the last few months, it appears that close to a dozen airliners are worrying intel folks in the U.S. and abroad according to at least one report.
As fears grow of a potential attack to commemorate 9/11, both the 2001 attacks on the U.S. mainland and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2011, the fact that America's intelligence community, and presumably many others, are scrambling to find out what's happening with these airliners is very concerning. Have they actually been taken somewhere? Are they still sitting on the tarmac in the hands of a militia? It's unclear.
Some believe it's unlikely, but it's worth noting that intelligence agencies and defense forces have reportedly been placed on high alert in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt due to the vanished aircraft.
Meanwhile, as Libya spirals into civil war oblivion (just checkout below the video below of militia members jumping into the pool at the freshly abandoned US Embassy in Tripoli), other regional players have begun taking a vested interest in keeping the country from becoming a troublesome failed state that is flush with oil.
The UAE has been quietly conducting unilateral airstrikes in Libya against the militant "Libya Dawn" militia group, while it is rumored that Egypt is preparing for possible widespread military operations in an attempt to contain extremist forces in Libya. Yet as these extremist elements continue to seize weapons caches and other key military infrastructure around Libya, they will be able to put up a better fight against external intervention.
In an alarming tweet, it appears that another well known extremist group operating in Libya has captured some SA-6 road-mobile surface-t- air missile systems, which is an elder cousin of the SA-11 'Buk' system that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukrainian territory last July.
— GEOrge (@ArtWendeley) July 24, 2014
As Iraq and Syria continue to destabilize, it would seem that radical militias throughout the region, spanning from western Africa, across to the Horn of Africa, up through Syria, Lebanon and into half of Iraq, are making territorial progress. This amounts to a continent sized land mass that could become a string of terror/failed states, infested with extremists who share more in common with one another than they do otherwise. Leaving us with one burning question: What if they all start working together even in a loose fashion?
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for an airliner in Afriqiyah Airways or Libyan Airlines livery, as it may very well be more missile than mover if it has indeed fallen into extremist hands.
Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com