(AUSTRALIA) AFP REPORT: Federal police has launched an investigation into a man accused of involvement in what the UN says was a poorly disguised mercenary operation in the North African nation of Libya #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Mar.20: The UN states the operation was managed by Mr Durrant and that his friend, infamous US mercenary boss Erik Prince, was also involved:

The ABC is not suggesting either Mr Coughlin or Mr Parish are being investigated by the AFP: The report alleges that the trio were part of a “well-funded private military company operation” designed to support an opposition warlord, Khalifa Haftar, overthrow the internationally recognised Libyan government.

Australian police probe alleged ‘kill/capture’ mercenary operation in Libya: ‘The man, former Australian fighter pilot Christiaan Paul “Serge” Durrant, was also named in a UN Security Council report released earlier this weekalong with two other former Australian military men also involved in the alleged mercenary operation: Richard Milton “Rick” Parish and Matthew Peter Gould Coughlin’

updated 13h ago

Christiaan Durrant in his fighter pilot days.(Supplied)

“Any time military people use their skills immorally or illegally it breaks down the trust with society,” said the former deputy commander of Australian Armed Forces in the Middle East, retired air force officer John Oddie.

“Anyone that breaks a UN embargo is really diminishing Australia in the eyes of the world, in my opinion.”

Since 2011, the United Nations has operated an arms embargo in Libya to try to prevent foreign powers from fuelling the civil war that has raged there since the overthrow and killing of the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

A federal police spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation into Mr Durrant, saying only that the AFP had received a report in relation to the UN probe and was “having ongoing engagement with the United Nations”.

Mr Durrant, a former Australian Air Force fighter pilot, was named in a Four Corners story last year that revealed the scope of the Libyan operation, including that it involved a plan to kill or capture “high value targets” in the North African country.

Young man smiling stands in front of a plane.
Matthew Coughlin was one of three Australians named in a UN Security Council report.(Supplied)

This is the first time that Mr Coughlin, a former Australian Army soldier, and Parish, an SAS trooper turned businessman, have been alleged to have been involved.

Both are accused by the UN of travelling to Libya with a group of other men with the intention of working as mercenaries for the Durrant-managed operation.

Mr Durrant did not travel to Libya as part of the operation.

In a statement in September, Mr Durrant told the ABC the operation was related to the oil and gas industries and did not have a military purpose.

“We don’t breach sanctions, we don’t deliver military services, we don’t carry guns, and we are not mercenaries,” he said, adding that the UN was relying on “false documents” to accuse him of involvement.

Repeated messages this week to the Dubai-based lawyers for the three Australian men did not elicit a reply.

A man in sunglasses and a muscle shirt leans against a helicopter.
Rick Parish allegedly worked with Christiaan Durrant on the failed operation in Libya.(Supplied)

The UN panel of experts report has found that Mr Durrant and Mr Prince were both in breach of the UN’s Libyan arms embargo.

It is now up to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee to decide if they and others involved should be slapped with travel bans and asset freezes.

The UN has not stated that Mr Coughlin nor Mr Parish directly breached the arms embargo, only that they travelled to Libya as part of the operation.

If the UN sanctions Mr Durrant, Australia will also be obliged to take action against him under parallel domestic legislation.

“Australia takes its obligations to implement United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions seriously,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said.

“DFAT works closely with its law enforcement partners to enforce sanctions laws where there is a suspected breach,” the spokesperson said.

Project Opus

The 2019 operation was put together by a group of mercenaries and businesspeople calling themselves Opus.

According to the UN, Opus was designed to provide military support to General Haftar, who controls the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, which has been fighting for years to overthrow the country’s UN-backed government in Tripoli.

The plan was an abject failure: within days of arriving in Libya the Opus ground team, including Mr Coughlin and Mr Parish, was forced to flee by boat to Malta due to concerns for their safety.

Last year, the ABC revealed two key documents underpinning the UN investigation: a PowerPoint presentation and a secret situation report, or sitrep.

The sitrep was sent by Mr Durrant to senior Middle Eastern officials from whom he was trying to secure support, the UN states. It made clear that the operation was military in nature.

The Opus team, it stated, “can be effective within seven days … with export of controlled items including helicopters, air ammunition, ground weapons, ground ammunition, and night vision.”

“Opus will continue their aggressive deployment program [to] support the commander’s strategic intent,” it concluded. UN investigators assert Haftar is “the commander”.

The PowerPoint document was used to explain Opus’ “operational plan”, according to the UN.

It pitched a plan for armed helicopters and a team of Western ex-military men who would perform “hot dynamic” attacks on “HVTs”.

HVT stands for high value targets, and is a US military term associated with killings or abductions undertaken by special operations forces.

A slide from the PowerPoint presentation refers to the HVT (High Value Target) Extraction/Termination Team.
A slide from the PowerPoint presentation refers to the HVT (High Value Target) Extraction/Termination team.

Elsewhere, the document uses the term “F3”. In US military parlance, F3 stands for “Find, Fix, Finish” – another phrase for the targeted killing of important enemies.

The PowerPoint document even included a hit list of nine Libyan men the Opus team was possibly offering to kill or kidnap for Haftar.

Only one of the people had the term “DNT” — Do Not Terminate — next to his name.

Erik Prince
Erik Prince arrives at a gala in New York City in 2019.(Reuters: Jeenah Moon)

Since the ABC aired a story, more allegations about Mr Durrant’s alleged role have emerged.

In February, US outlet The Intercept published an article alleging that Durrant, accompanied by his one-time boss Erik Prince, met in Washington with a member of former US president Donald Trump’s Nation Security Council to try and secure US support for the operation.

During that meeting, the Intercept stated, Mr Durrant made clear the operation was military in nature and designed to help Haftar overthrow the government.

When that failed, Mr Prince introduced Mr Durrant to another Trump administration official in order to get Mr Durrant a meeting with the CIA, the Intercept alleges.

That request also failed.

Former military men

Christiaan “Serge” Durrant was, in the 1990s, once of Australia’s most accomplished and talented fighter pilots.

He came first in one of the Australian Air Force’s most demanding fighter pilot classes, the Fighter Combat Instructor course, which is comparable to the US Navy’s “Top Gun” school.

However, he began to chafe under the military’s bureaucracy and the politics of its senior leadership.

“I’d started to lose a bit of faith … I just felt there was a lot of politics getting involved and senior bureaucrats getting involved that was eroding the force from what it was asked to do, to defend the country. And I couldn’t work in that environment, it clashed too much with my own personality,” he recalled in an interview with ABC radio years later.

He quit the Air Force in 2004 but struggled to find his way in the civilian world. He described that struggle, and his thirst for action, in his 2012 autobiography, Fighter Pilot.

“There is a monkey on your back … He only eats danger, excitement and impossible feats. If he is not fed, he will whisper in your ear how little you are worth,” he said.

“To satisfy that monkey you will have to do things that are not entirely sane, nor conducive to a long life nor a happy family. You are a slave to the monkey.”

By 2014, Mr Durrant had taken a job in Africa with a company partly owned by US mercenary boss Erik Prince. Although he left that job two years later, he has remained friends with the high-profile American.

Mr Parish served in the SAS in the 1980s and went on to become a businessman and charity founder in Perth with business interests in the Middle East.

Mr Coughlin, from Berry in southern NSW, served in the Australian military as an infantryman and Black Hawk crewman and went on to become a successful light aircraft racer in the US:

Soldiers of fortune

A Four Corners investigation reveals allegations that elite Australian military men are being caught up in the dark world of private wars

AFP/ABC/UN/Four Corners/

#AceNewsDesk report ……….Published: Mar.20: 2021:

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