FROM IRAN TO GAZA? Nigeria intercepts 13 Iranian missile containers
LAGOS, NIGERIA – Three men have been detained for questioning in the Nigerian capital Lagos after Nigerian national security agents intercepted and seized 13 containers of smuggled Iranian missiles and weapons camouflaged as building materials, possibly destined for Gaza.
Rocket launchers, grenades, 120mm and 60mm bombs and other explosives were concealed among crates of floor tiles in the containers which arrived by ship from Iran, docked at Apapa port in Lagos, where they were unloaded and after a few hours the ship sailed on.
Nigerian state security agents were alerted to the port where they ordered the containers to be opened for inspection, after the clearing agent in charge of their unloading attempted to bribe customs officials to allow the containers to be transferred to an off-dock terminal for screening outside the port, according to The Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday.
The containers had actually arrived in Lagos in July, and were immediately suspect because the bill of lading was unaccompanied by a required Risk Assessment Report (RAR), the paper disclosed.
Nigerian National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi declined to say what ship carried the weapons into the port. But the federal government, he said, would destroy the weapons.
“A lot of information was still needed about the authenticity of the containers’ port of origin, the actual importers and other vital information relevant to the interception of the containers,” General Azazi said.
In Israel, which maintains close security, trade and diplomatic ties with Nigeria, a senior Israeli defense source suggested that the weapons’ seizure has exposed a possible new arms smuggling route from Iran to Gaza around the African Horn, wrote the daily Haaretz.
The Iranians may have run into difficulties sending arms to Gaza via the Arabian and Red Seas and Sudan following improved intelligence sharing and supervision in the last year by a Western maritime work team on the prevention of Iranian arms smuggling in the region, the Israeli defense official said.