Since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted as Libya’s leader over a year ago, Egyptian officials have been intercepting large caches of weapons smuggled from Libya destined for black-market transfer to Syria and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
But in recent weeks the pattern of the arms shipments has shifted, according to officials, and fundamentalist Muslim groups in Egypt, known as Salafis, also are receiving the weapons.
The pattern shift is alarming Egyptian officials, who estimate they are seizing only a fraction of the weaponry - including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles - flowing across the border from Libya.
In late February, Egyptian authorities announced they had intercepted two pickup trucks carrying 60 anti-tank missiles smuggled in from Libya.
Arms to Egyptian groups
The trucks, which were loaded in Mursa Matruh, 430 kilometers northwest of the Egyptian capital on the Mediterranean Coast, were heading to the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula. But officials now think that not all the missiles were earmarked for transfer to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
“Not all the weaponry flowing into Libya is going to the Gaza,” a European diplomat told VOA on the condition of anonymity. “The Egyptians are becoming alarmed that weapons are now being stockpiled by Egyptian Salafi groups. They are starting to uncover arms trafficked from Libya in the [Nile] Delta and believe other weapons are being stored in Sinai. It is making them very nervous.”