After many speculations on where the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, are getting the weapons they frequently use to unleash terror in the north-eastern states of Nigeria and Abuja, their main sources have been unveiled.
According to US network TV NBC, most of the Islamic terror group’s weapons are either stolen from Nigerian military stocks or purchased on the thriving Central African arms black market, say the experts, including current and former U.S. officials.
While many have often wondered where the insurgents source their weaponry from, given both the sophistication and the sheer number, ThisDay reports that the group blamed for last month’s kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls routinely raids police stations and military bases in search of weapons.
It was also gathered that in some cases, Boko Haram sympathizers in the Nigerian military abet the theft.
“There are hints that sympathizers in the Nigerian army will deliberately leave doors of armouries unlocked for Boko Haram,” said John Campbell, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.
It could also be recalled that a top military officer was indicted several years ago in Kaduna, for supplying the weapons of the Nigerian army to Niger Delta militants, led by, now jailed, Henry Okah.
The terror group has been conducting its campaign of terror in the northern states of Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon on the cheap, making mayhem with a makeshift collection of small arms, automatic weapons, rifles, rocket- propelled grenades and mortars, experts on the turbulent region say.
The report also stated that apart from weapons, the rebels frequently seize non-lethal equipment that helps them carry out their terror attacks, quoting one U.S. official.
Apart from benefiting from sympathizers in the Nigerian military, the Islamic terror group is said to be able to purchase small arms and occasionally some larger weaponry in nearby conflict zones, “probably Libya, probably Chad.
These arms are believed to be acquired through “shady, black market” arrangements across barely marked borders, as the official put it.
The porousness of the Nigerian borders was also said to be encouraging the proliferation of the country with illegal arms, according to Michael Leiter, a former director of the National Counter Terrorism Center and now an NBC News analyst.
“The collapse of Libya has further flooded the market,” said Leiter. “Whether these came from Chad, Nigeria, or Libya is almost irrelevant, as such arms are widely available.”
Arms trade expert William M. Hartung agrees. “It’s one conflict after another,” he said. “Because of the nature of the conflict … the concentration of conflicts … the black market in Central Africa is more vibrant than other places.”
Campbell, the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, says the array of small and automatic weapons, grenades, mortars, mines and perhaps car bombs “is all Boko Haram’s soldiers need to carry out their brand of terrorism.”
It could be recalled that officials in Cameroon on Tuesday showed a cache of weapons they said was seized near the Nigerian border last month following a rescue of some other kidnapped victims.
A Cameroon defense ministry spokesman, showing off a variety of weaponry including Russian-made AK-47s, said the cache represents what they are up against on a daily basis in trying to combat Boko Haram.