The United Nations believes the large cache of weapons from the recently ended Libyan civil war could make its way into the hands of members of the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as other al Qaeda factions, Reuters reported.
The U.N. report, which released on Thursday, trails the impact of the Libyan civil war on countries of the Sahel region, including Nigerian, Niger and Chad and further explores links between Nigeria’s terrorist sect Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the north.
Boko Haram, which translates into “Western education is bad”, has unleashed havoc in the northern region of Nigeria, claiming countless lives in a series of deadly attacks.
Recently the group claimed responsibility for the Kano city bombings and gun battle that left over 180 dead and several injured.
Reuters reports that the U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the report, prepared by a U.N. assessment team that met with officials from countries in the Sahel, at a meeting.
“The governments of the countries visited indicated that, in spite of efforts to control their borders, large quantities of weapons and ammunition from Libyan stockpiles were smuggled into the Sahel region,” the report said.
Such weapons include “rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns with anti-aircraft visors, automatic rifles, ammunition, grenades, explosives (Semtex), and light anti-aircraft artillery (light calibre bi-tubes) mounted on vehicles,” it said.
While attacks by the Boko Haram sect has grown in sophistication and frequency, weapons still used by the sect are still largely locally made.
Improvised explosive devices discovered by security operatives in Kano, following the deadly attacks one week ago, comprised of aluminum cans of soda pop, filled with powdered explosives.
Chances of more sophisticated weapons making their way across borders and into the country, prove an even greater security threat to the troubled oil-rich nation.
More advanced weapons such as surface-to-air-missiles and man-portable air defense systems, known as MANPADS, may also have reached groups in the region, the report said.
Ian Martin, U.N. special envoy to Libya, has dismissed those claims, insisting that the weapons have remained, for the most part, in Libya.
The report stated, however, that some countries believe those weapons were smuggled into the Sahel region by loyalist migrant pro-Gaddafi mercenaries.
Some of the countries told the assessment team that they had registered an increase in arms trade across West Africa.
“Some of the weapons may be hidden in the desert and could be sold to terrorist groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram or other criminal organizations,” the U.N. report said.
The report also revealed that the fear of Boko Haram is fast spreading across borders. Officials from neighbouring Niger said links between Boko Haram and al Qaeda are plausible, adding that there “was already active in spreading its ideology and propaganda and, in some cases, had succeeded in closing down public schools.”
According to the report, Boko Haram members from Nigeria and Chad are believe to have been trained at the hands of al Qaeda insurgents in North Africa, in training camps in Mali in the summer of 2011.
“Although Boko Haram has concentrated its terrorist acts inside Nigeria, seven of its members were arrested while transiting through the Niger to Mali, in possession of documentation on manufacturing of explosives, propaganda leaflets and names and contact details of members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb they were allegedly planning to meet,” the report said.
Links between al Qaeda and Boko Haram have become “a growing source of concern for the countries of the region,” it said.