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In this Dec. 8, 2008 file photo, armed al-Shabab fighters just outside Mogadishu prepare to travel into the city in pickup trucks after vowing there would be new waves of attacks against Ethiopian troops. InternationalIndiaAfricaEvidence of illegal arms flows from Europe to Africa surfaced in early 2023. These illict weapons are now not just in the hands of major terror groups, but also relatively small ones that justify their use for self-defense. What consequences does this trend hold for the region and can these weapons reach the Maghreb? Experts give Sputnik the facts.The flow of arms smuggled from Europe to Africa is already leaving its mark: terrorist attacks in Central and Southern Africa jumped 50% in 2022 compared to previous years, and increased by 20% in West Africa. Most of the illegal weapons are stored in the Lake Chad Basin and the Central Sahel region.
Sounding the Alarm
For example, Ismail Mohamed Tahir, a Chadian security expert, fears that the flow of European arms into Africa will only increase, and this will contribute to rising tensions on the continent.
"In addition to terrorists, smaller armed groups regularly clash on the continent, for example over natural resources, farms and mines. Even these armed groups are now acquiring European weapons. The escalating conflict over the control of gold mines in northern Chad and Niger is particularly dangerous. And the shadow hub for arms transfers suddenly turns out to be Algeria," he said.
For his part, Abou Bakr Abdel Salam, a political analyst from Chad, noted that rebel movements and terrorist cells were responsible for the main flow of arms smuggling.
"In Chad, for example, and in the Tibesti Region, weapons reach everyone. Some people carry them under the pretext of self-defence. The arms trade is also active in Congo, Nigeria and the delta region. The risk of more armed clashes, coups and a general surge in violence and instability is too great. Mafias, gangs and criminal groups in a number of Sahel countries have already received several arms shipments from Europe, and this could soon lead to further conflicts," he explained.
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According to the Chadian expert, the region has become an open market for the arms trade from Europe, which comes mainly from Ukraine via European countries. The Maghreb countries are a transshipment point. Algeria has seen the sale of illegal arms swell.According to Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Finnish police uncovered arms smuggling from Ukraine to the black market in Africa last October. Based on the preliminary results of the investigation, the agency concluded that criminals may have gotten their hands on a large number of weapons that had previously been shipped to Kiev.The Sahel region has seen a surge in the extent of violence by terrorist groups, which has quadrupled since 2019. And there are no signs that it will subside this year.