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Illicit arms trade in Sahelo-Sahara danger to Europe: EU

Brussels, April 22: A report funded by the European Commission has said the Polisario was involved in illegal arms trade and violent acts in the Sahelo-Sahara in collusion with terrorist groups operating in the conflict-ridden northern African desert region, according to Morocco’s MAP news agency. According to this study by Project Safte, an international research project investigating terrorists’ access to the illegal firearms trade, which was reported by the Flemish Institute for Peace, the Sahelo-Saharan region has experienced violent incidents involving MUJAO, the Polisario Front and Ansar Dine during the period 2010-16. The report, “Illicit markets and acquisition of firearms by terrorist networks in Europe”, prepared by an international group of firearms experts, notes that collusion between the Polisario and terrorist groups operating in the region has been facilitated by the situation in Libya, the porous borders and the inability of central authorities in some countries in the region to control their vast territory. According to this document, “the capacity of the states of the Sahelian region to control their borders is rather limited because the desert environment is traditionally a traffic area where the few official crossing points are easily bypassed by traditional smugglers and new traffickers”. The availability and circulation of weapons on the black market in the region considerably proliferated after the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the subsequent conflicts in that country, noting that the Polisario Front has benefited from this situation and now has an “arms surplus”, the report said. According to the report, “the Polisario now has enough weapons to sell and supply the regional market”. Quoting experts, the report warns that “some of these weapons will also end up in the European Union”, recalling that in 2015 Europol publicly stated for the first time that firearms from the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Mali were available on the European black market and that these countries could become major suppliers of illegal firearms to the EU. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita