By Rida Lyammouri
March 18th, 2016
Important: This post provides information about weapons, drugs, and other illicit trafficking seizures in Northeastern Niger between September 2014 and May 2015. Please note that information provided is taken directly from a recent Libya United Nations (UN) report published March 2016. However since the report is long I decided to summarize important information related to trafficking and violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in the Sahel. I also included more seizures based on open-source reporting where necessary, and my own comments and analysis where necessary to provide more context.
- My Own Key Takeaways and Analysis Based on Information Provided at the UN Report:
- Fighting against increased pressure from French, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and Malian forces in Mali, AQIM [and allies] will continue to seek access to weapons and explosives from Libya. Since its intervention in Mali January 2013, French forces discovered and destroyed important number of arms caches belonging to AQIM and allied groups in Northern Mali.
- VEOs and non-state actors operating in Mali have contacts based in Libya to facilitate movement of weapons.
- Libyan weapons still and will continue to make its way to Mali despite increased pressure by operation Barkhane in Northeastern Niger in collaboration with Nigerien forces. This could be explained by continued violent attacks in Mali throughout 2015 and early 2016. Violence in Mali was not limited to VEOs but included rival secular movements, such as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) and Malian government backed militia, Groupe d’Auto-Défense Tuareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA). Despite peace agreement signed between armed groups and Malian government tensions remain high. Tribal tensions likely to complicate further the implementation of the peace accord.
- Demand of weapons from non-state armed groups will also continue.
- While security is not the main concern to Nigerien population, French forces presence in Northern Niger not only limited movement of weapons but also prevented VEOs from conducting violent attacks in the area. No major attacks took place in northern Niger since May 2013 when Mokhtar Bekmokhtar orchestrated simultaneous operations on Agadez and Arlit.
- Communities living on the borders depend on cross-border licit trade. This likely to suffer and be limited due to French increased presence to combat movement of weapons and VEOs activities in Northeastern Niger.
- For protection purposes organized criminal networks in charge of moving drugs through the Sahel to Europe or to the Middle East will continue to rely on weapons smuggled from Libya through southern borders.
- Economic and financial gains through licit and illicit trafficking in Southwest Libya will remain one of key driver of tribal and domestic tensions between different groups in the area.