Abuja: Nigeria's President warned at a West African regional summit on Thursday that a security crisis in the Sahel has led to a rise in the number of weapons flowing into the drought-hit region.
The North African desert area has faced intensified threats from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) following the conflict in Libya, which caused a surge in arms proliferation, the UN Security Council has said.
Some have warned that instability in the Sahel is also linked to the rise in attacks in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram Islamists who have killed more than 200 people already this year.
"We are... witnessing a lot of crisis in some parts of the sub region," Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said at the start of the Economic Community of West African States summit in Abuja.
"Because of the crisis we have in the Sahel region, we see (a) flow of small arms and light weapons," he added. Mali, one of the Sahel states repeatedly targeted by AQIM, has also been forced to combat a fresh offensive launched last month by Tuareg rebels.
The rebels have attacked several northern Malian towns since January 17, part of a long-running battle to demand autonomy for their nomadic, desert tribes. They may have also forged a link with AQIM, France said this week.
Boko Haram may also be closely tied to al Qaeda's north Africa branch, according to some analysts. The outgoing head of the ECOWAS commission, Ghana's James Victor Gbeho, affirmed that both historical tensions and the fallout from Libya's civil war have inflamed violence in the Sahel.
First Published: Friday, February 17, 2012, 13:35