Hezbollah is smuggling weapons and drugs through West Africa and is trying to establish sleeper cells there, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Speaking at a Security Council debate on peace and security in Africa, Prosor said, "Israel is particularly concerned about Hezbollah’s activity in the region, which has served as a hub for the terrorist organization’s operations for more than two decades. Hezbollah uses West Africa as a transit point for funneling money, arms, and drugs to far reaching corners of the globe. These criminal enterprises strengthen Hezbollah’s ability to create sleeper cells in the region – and to garner support from the local population."
The ambassador called on the international community to stop the Lebanon-based terrorist group and its primary backer, Iran.
"The world cannot afford to stand by and give Hezbollah a base of operations in West Africa. These activities are not only a clear and imminent danger to the people of Africa. Hezbollah and their Iranian sponsors pose a threat to innocent people in all corners of the globe – as we saw last week in New Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi."
Prosor continued, "Israel has long worked hand-in-hand with African nations to combat transnational crime and terrorism. We continue to share our knowledge and experience with many African states and regional organizations. These collaborative efforts span a range of issues – from terrorist financing to aviation security; from money laundering to border protection."
He stressed that the development of the region was part of a long-term strategy of fighting terrorism, saying, "The security challenges in West Africa call for a two-track approach. The international community must work with African nations to root out terrorism and crime, while we nourish the roots of development and prosperity."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also spoke at the debate, said there is growing concern about stability in West Africa and the Sahel region to the north because of the rise in organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy, a growing food crisis, the influx of weapons from the upheaval in Libya, and the reported links between insurgent groups, criminal groups and terrorist organization.
“There is even fear that we could see in this region a crisis of the magnitude of the one in the Horn of Africa,” Ban said, a reference to Somalia which remains a failed state, with the al-Qaida-affiliated militant group al-Shabab challenging a weak transitional government.
He told the council that an assessment mission he sent in December to look at the effects of the Libya crisis on the Sahel “found that terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, have begun to form alliances with drug traffickers, and other criminal syndicates.”
“Such alliances have the potential to further destabilize the region and reverse hard-won democratic and peacebuilding achievements,” the secretary-general warned.
Benin’s Minister of State for National Security Issifou N’Douro said the dispersal of Libya’s arsenal and mass departure of Libyans following the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi “has considerably worsened the challenges that West Africa and the Sahel in particular are facing in terms of combatting organized transnational crime.”
The Libyan fallout has led to the growth and radicalization of rebel groups in the Sahel states and “a resurgence in pernicious forms of coordinated criminal activity” such as kidnapping with ransom demands and shootouts between security forces and insurgents with better weapons, he said.
Togo’s president, Faure Gnassingbe, whose country holds the Security Council presidency this month and organized the meeting, said terrorist actions in Nigeria and the Sahel have added to West Africa and the Sahel becoming “channels for trafficking of all kinds.”
He proposed an International Contact Group on Organized Transnational Crime which would include interested countries to better coordinate material and financial help to the region and individual governments.