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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Which “friendly nation” is Qatar hinting at in Matra Super530 missile seizure in Italy?

Qatar has revealed that the missile found in Italy was sold to a "friendly nation" 25 years ago in 1994. It has chosen to remain silent on naming the country, however, research suggests the possibility of Spanish involvement. On Monday, the Italian media reported about the seizure of illegal weapon arsenal in possession of a neo-Nazi sympathizer group operating in Italy.

News Desk |

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a statement on the Ministry’s official website, affirming cooperation with the Italian investigation authorities to inspect the case of French-made Matra Super530 air-to-air missile, formerly owned by Qatari armed forces that it had sold to a “friendly nation” in 1994.

The statement published on Wednesday read, that the state of Qatar had been “following media reports about the seized an arsenal of weapons in the friendly Italian Republic very closely and with concern”.

The Italian police uncovered a few weapons that included 26 guns, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, silencers and rifle scopes, and more than 800 kinds of bullets.

The statement by the Ministry was published a day after the Italian media reported about the missile found in possession of neo-Nazi sympathizers in Italy.

Italian Authorities Seize Weapons in Possession of Neo-Nazi Sympathizers

Earlier this week, the Italian authorities conducted a search operation across northern Italy, in a bid to investigate the case of Italian groups that allegedly supported Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine from 2013 to 2015.

As a result, the authorities seized several arms, including Matra Super530; the air-to-air missile once owned by Qatari Armed Forces, in addition to rocket launchers and a large arsenal of weapons. The Italian police uncovered a few weapons that included 26 guns, 20 bayonets, 306 gun parts, silencers and rifle scopes, and more than 800 kinds of bullets.

Read more: Qatar says arms purchases ‘none of Saudi’s business’

Fabio Del Bergiolo, the alleged mastermind behind the arm haul was arrested among two other people of Italian and Swiss origin. According to statements made by the Italian Police following the seizure on Monday, Bergiolo is a member and a former candidate of the Forza Nuova party (FN), “an extreme right” political party of Italy.

Weapons Sold to a “Friendly” country: Qatar

In what is being described as an “unprecedented” weapon seizure, the Qatari owned air-to-air missile is being looked at with scepticism. Qatar has, however, been quick in responding to the news being circulated in the Italian and global media.

In its statement published on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that 25 years ago, the Matra Super530 missile had been sold by Qatar to a “friendly nation” that has requested to not be named at this point.

The Qatari state has, however, started an investigation on its part that has so far revealed information pertinent to the sale agreement. According to information obtained through tracked serial numbers, the Matra Super530 missile, presently in the custody of Italian police, was sold by Qatar in 1994. The deal included 40 of these Matra Super530 to be sold to the anonymous country.

The Spanish Ministry of Defense has reportedly said, the 40 missiles acquired from Qatar were demilitarized in their entirety by the Spanish Air Force

The spokesperson of the Qatari Foreign Ministry, Lolwah Alkhater in an interview to Al Jazeera stressed on the concerns as to how “a missile sold 25 years ago ended up in the hands of a third non-state party,”.

Is Spain the “Friendly Nation” Qatar is Hinting at?

Qatar has so far maintained silence over naming the country it had sold the Matra Super530 to in 1994. However, research and news database from 1994 suggest, that there had been a trilateral deal between Spain, Qatar and France. The archival data of a Spanish news-portal, El Pais, suggests that the country’s Ministry of Defence had decided to enter into a military weapon deal with both France and Qatar. The news-story further states:

“Spain will pay 16,000 million for 13 F-1 fighters to the emirate of the Persian Gulf, which wants to get rid of them to replace them with the more modern Mirage 2000 that it buys from France. The contract also includes spare parts, ammunition and, possibly, a simulator”

The research database available at SIPRI Arms Transfers Database suggests, that there were 40 Super 530Fs sold to Spain as Qatar’s Air Force had included spare parts for the aircraft and the remaining Super 530F missiles in the deal.

Read more: Qatar climbing new heights: Largest Naval Base in the Arabian Peninsula?

However, Spain has maintained that it stopped the use of Super 530F as soon as Mirage F-1 aircraft had been retired. According to Spanish authorities, the said missile was demilitarized and sold as scrap soon after the end of Mirage F-1. The Spanish Ministry of Defense has reportedly said, “the 40 missiles acquired from Qatar were demilitarized in their entirety by the Spanish Air Force,”

Additionally, the Spanish Ministry while revealing more information about the French Matra has stressed the Italian authorities to properly investigate the origin of the captured missile, that it claims to be live at the time of seizure. The ministry has asserted that more than 4000 units of Super 530F were manufactured and supplied to more than 10 air forces hence, opening a Pandora’s box about the mystery missile that ended up with a violent far-right non-state group.