Weapons in use by herdsmen in Nigeria used by Al Qaeda in Mali, other Sahel countries – Report

A report by a UK research firm, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), has revealed that weapons being used in herder-farmer killings in Nigeria were same as those used by Al Qaeda in Mali and other Sahel countries.

CAR recently released the report titled “Nigeria’s Herder-Farmer Conflict” which focused primarily on Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna States.

As reported by Radio France International (RFI), the report said: “researchers found weapons amongst herders in northern Nigeria that were from the same small batch that had also been used in an attack by an Al Qaeda-aligned group in Mopti, central Mali.”

While the researchers confirmed that the group used weapons from the same source, they, however, could not confirm if the group share the same ideology with Al-Qaeda.

“Attackers in different countries are actually using weapons, not just of the same type, but almost certainly from the same batch and that are passed through the same people,” Mike Lewis, who is the author of the report and head of investigative arms research for CAR, told RFI.

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Lewis said, “And what that tells you is that there are very specific sources of illicit weapons that are providing the tools of violence for armed groups and also terrorist groups right across the Sahel.”

“There were assault rifles, for example, that had had their markings scraped off in exactly the same way, and probably with the same tool, and yet we’re finding them literally hundreds or even thousands of kilometres apart,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, had in 2018 blamed former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for killings in the country.

Buhari, who spoke during one of his trips to London, had said that arms Gaddafi provided to his supporters were those being used for killings by bandits in the north-central.

The president also said: “Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons.”

Nigeria’s farmer-herder clashes date back to 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule.

The clashes are said to primarily involve disputes over land or cattle between herders and farmers in the country.

But clashes are said to be due to economic, political and environmental tensions in the country, contrary to narratives that they are as a result of ethnic or religious conflicts.

Herder-farmer conflicts, according to the Global Terrorism Index, claimed no fewer than 800 lives in Nigeria in 2015.

The conflicts saw at least two major attacks in Agatu, Benue State and Nimbo, Enugu State, in 2016.

The year 2018 witnessed one of the highest casualties from herder-farmer clashes as 277 deaths were recorded while over 50 houses were razed in several parts of the country. Plateau state alone accounted for 200 of the deaths recorded in that year.

On 11 February 2019, suspected herdsmen were said to have attacked Adara settlement in Kaduna State and killed 11 people.

Residents of Adara were also said to have retaliated the attack and killed at least 141 people in several settlements occupied by the Fulani.

The Coalition Against Kajuru killings, on March 18, 2019, said 130 people have been killed in a series of reprisal attacks since the Adara attack.