Hezbollah in Kano, Evidence of West Africa Ambitions
We’ve previously discussed Hezbollah global expansion of operations. But the recent capture of an arms cache in Kano, Nigeria and subsequent arrest of three Lebanese-Nigerians accused of links to Hezbollah (all denied bail today) adds to evidence of Hezbollah’s efforts to establish a more substantial presence in West Africa. The timeline below from Recorded Future shows Hezbollah activities identified in West African countries since 2011.
It should be noted that the weaponry recovered in Kano – small arms, anti-tank weapons, grenades, and more than 11,000 rounds of ammunition – was rusted to the point of seeming disrepair, but the arsenal size was not trivial. Gun running is one possibility, and it wouldn’t be the first major seizure of arms in Nigeria (see evidence from Lagos in 2010 with weapons linked to Iran).
But the impulse reaction by many commentators and media correspondents was to link these weapons for distribution to local terrorist outfit Boko Haram (BH). While not out of the realm of possibility, this seems unlikely given the Shia foundation of Hezbollah and the Salafist Sunni underpinnings of BH.
If one is looking for a local tie, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria seems more likely. The Zaria-based group (~100 miles south of Kano) has long been led by Ibrahim Zakzaky, has links to Iran from its inception, and is likened to Hezbollah in both its structure and training methods. Zakzaky has prominently made anti-Israel remarks and pinned Boko Haram violence on foreign powers as an attempt by Western government to unsettle Nigeria in favor of US and Israeli interests.
We’ll be closely watching developments in the Kano case as one of the accused parties, Mustapha Fawaz, is co-owner of the popular Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park in Abuja meaning there could be a very interesting money trail. You can follow a newsfeed on the subject from Recorded Future, and we’ll have more on Kano security issues in the coming weeks.