Significant proportions of weapons and arms seized from armed groups in Niger came from West African state stockpiles, suggesting authorities are struggling to secure arms stores in the region, a report has said.
There was no suggestion that any governments were sending weapons to rebels who have launched attacks in Niger as well as Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), the group that published the report, said on Monday.
Instead, the findings showed that “maintaining custody of military material represents a challenge for the region’s national security forces, particularly those engaged in active military and counterterrorism operations”, CAR added.
The group said it had identified 165 weapons and 6,243 pieces of ammunition in October 2019 that authorities had recovered from fighters in Diffa, southeast Niger.
Since then, it said it had been tracing the arms, checking with governments and suppliers.
About 17 percent of the weapons came from stockpiles in Chad, Nigeria and Niger while 23 percent of ammunition originated from stockpiles in Nigeria, the report said.
The Nigerian and Chadian authorities did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. A Nigerien government spokesman was not reachable for comment.
Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) and other groups have built strongholds in the Lake Chad region and launched repeated cross-border raids on civilian areas and military bases since 2015.
There was evidence that Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters used local black markets and smuggling channels to procure arms, CAR said.
For years, porous borders have been key to the proliferation of small arms by various groups in the region.
Nearly half the weapons CAR studied were either manufactured in African countries or originated from stocks that had been exported to a country in northern or western Africa, the report said.
Some of the weapons were similar to others recovered from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and their allies in West Africa, indicating that the groups may overlap or use the same supply mechanisms, the report added.