Arms Trade Conflict in Libya

Flash Bang!: Rheinmetall munitions identified in Misrata

In the general reluctance to provide details of the origin of the munitions used by the coalition/rebel forces in the battle of Misrata, HRI has been taking a closer look at some of the video evidence available.

Flash- Bang

Here is a video taken by AFP after the clearing of a strategically important building overlooking Tripoli Street in Misrata for the rebels.

Take a close look at the grenade in the last seconds of the clip:

This grenade is a 40mm Double Flash-Bang Grenade made by Nico-Pyrotechik. Hamburg Germany:

First created by British for special air service as an incapacitant. The stun hand grenade, or “flash bang” is a non lethal weapon that is a diversionary or distraction device used during a building or room clearing.

Made in Germany

NICO-Pyrotechnik is a part of Rheinmetall Defence and is a long-established German weapons manufacturer. The German and Spanish arms industries, of course, have long thrived on secrecy and links with dodgey politicians (as we have found with the two most recent Spanish Industry Ministers  Miguel Sebastian and Joan Clos i Matheu). Back in the 1930s Rheinmetall was controlled by Hermann Goering who managed to find ways to profit from sales to the Spanish Republicans whilst simultaneously urging Adolf Hitler to use the Condor Legion to provide bombing support to Franco’s fascists.

The German arms industry is now regaining its past glory and could perhaps be said to constitute a Fourth Reich – as Germany is now the third largest exporter of arms in the world, led by companies such as Daimler (better known as the producer of Mercedes) and EADS.

US Special Ops

Rheinmetall, through American Rheinmetall (ARM) has a contract to supply stun grenades to US special operations forces. This particular munition is marked NIC-08/03-0[?]. A  NICO catalogue includes dummy rounds which have the code format JJ-MM-00 (Year, Year – Month, Month).

In an interview with €uro on 18th May the head of Rheinmetall, Klaus Eberhardt, stated that his company had exported no weapons to Libya and the German Federal Government had not given permission for any such sales. He also confirmed that the USA is a very important market for his company as is the United Arab Emirates.

So how did this particular munition get to be used in the battle for this strategically important building overlooking Tripoli Street? And how deeply involved were US Special Forces in supporting the Libyan rebels as they ethnically cleansed Misrata?

4 replies on “Flash Bang!: Rheinmetall munitions identified in Misrata”

The American Rheinmetal contract was signed in 2010 so if the flash bang was dated 08/03 it wasn’t from that source either. Back to the drawing boards. The mystery continues.

Their website says about the MK13 Mod 0 BTV-EL Sound & Flash grenade:

In service worldwide with security and law enforcement agencies, as well as US military and special operation forces.

So it could have come from just about anywhere

Hi Clay:

NICO /Rheinmetall has been supplying flash bang grenades to US Special Forces at least since 2002. One way we know that is that their use was implicated in the death of the three-year old girl Zarguna (may her soul rest in peace) in the village of Hajibirgit, Afghanistan, reported by Robert Fisk in August 2002:

All the women and children were ordered to gather at one end of Hajibirgit. “They were pushing us and shoving us out of our homes,” Mohamedin says. “Some of the Afghan gunmen were shouting abuse at us. All the while, they were throwing grenades at our homes.” The few villagers who managed to run away collected the stun grenades next day with the help of children. There are dozens of them, small cylindrical green pots with names and codes stamped on the side. One says “7 BANG Delay: 1.5 secs NIC-01/06-07”, another “1 BANG, 170 dB Delay: 1.5s.” Another cylinder is marked: “DELAY Verzagerung ca. 1,5s.” These were the grenades that terrified Zarguna and ultimately caused her death. A regular part of US Special Forces equipment, they are manufactured in Germany by the Hamburg firm of Nico-Pyrotechnik – hence the “NIC” on several of the cylinders. “dB” stands for decibels.
Several date stamps show that the grenades were made as recently as last March. The German company refers to them officially as “40mm by 46mm sound and flash (stun) cartridges”. But the Americans were also firing bullets. Several peppered a wrecked car in which another villager, a taxi driver called Abdullah, had been sleeping. He was badly wounded. So was Haji Birgit Khan’s son.

As a wise man once said:

“Those who refuse to remember their history are condemned to repeat it.”

Update today – included Rheinmetall confirmation of not having exported to Libya. Some clarification regarding markings. Needless to say, more information is required and HRI is very grateful for readers contributions.

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