Terrorism and organized crime: Arms trafficking and smuggling in North Africa and the Sahel

Far-right violence and terrorism – July 2023
Observatorio de atentados yihadistas de julio de 2023


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Smuggling and arms trafficking are two of the greatest security challenges in North Africa and the Sahel, particularly due to their connections with violent extremism. The dynamics of this criminal market involve the movement of weapons and ammunition across borders, whether through legal or illegal means, with the aim of arming both violent groups and actors seeking protection in the face of severe insecurity.

The increased availability of arms in the Sahara-Sahel region over the past decade, especially in the post-revolutionary context following the collapse of the Libyan regime in 2011, has led to a rise in conflicts, including the emergence of violent extremism in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. This has resulted in loss of human lives, displacement, and economic setbacks.

This report provides an analysis of the intersection between terrorism and organized crime in the North Africa and Sahel regions, focusing on arms trafficking and smuggling. The document seeks to provide insights into the complex dynamics of these criminal activities and their impact on regional security, stability, and development. Through a combination of case studies and analysis of primary and secondary sources, the report highlights the key actors involved in the illicit arms trade, including terrorist groups, criminal networks, and public officials. It also examines the socio-economic factors driving the demand for arms, such as local violence, conflicts, and governance weaknesses.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations for policymakers and security sector professionals on how to enhance regional cooperation and address the root causes of arms trafficking and smuggling in North Africa and the Sahel. The ultimate goal is to promote peace, security, and sustainable development in the region.


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