February 06, 2012
Unsecured Libyan Stockpiles Empower Boko Haram and Destabilize African Sahel
Late last month, the U.N. Security Council met to discuss a report that describes the dangerous effect of weapons smuggled out of Libyan military stockpiles last year. The report discusses how the influx of arms from Libya have strengthened organized criminal groups and terror networks, including the increasingly violent Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria. Boko Haram, an Islamist group operating in the Northern provinces of Nigeria, has launched a series of attacks against Christians, causing many to flee to southern provinces. The group has also attacked Nigerian authorities to try to advance their reported goal of establishing Sharia rule in the north. Weapons flowing in from Libya are enabling Boko Haram to commit atrocities. According to the report, smugglers have moved large, unspecified volumes of weapons from Libya across the porous borders that characterize the Sahel, the expanse of land at the south of the Sahara Desert. The arms include “rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns with anti-aircraft visors, automatic rifles, ammunition, grenades, explosives . . . and light anti-aircraft artillery.” They also possibly include more advanced weapons such as surface-to-air missiles and man-portable air defense systems. More broadly, the proliferation of Libyan stockpiles has resulted in an increased arms trade in Western Africa. Officials believe many of the weapons are hidden, waiting to be sold to criminal groups. The Libyan government must secure these weapons, so that they don’t facilitate slaughter in Nigeria and elsewhere.