Posts tagged with arms trafficking

Video Shows Somali Insurgent with Sophisticated SA-18 Missile

On Friday, the Washington Post posted an Associated Press story with a video still of a man in civilian clothes holding what appears to be an advanced SA-18 Igla man-portable air defense system (MANPADS).* To date, the only MANPADS reported to be in the arsenals of the Somali insurgents were the less sophisticated SA-7.** The video was reportedly obtained by the Associated Press from an individual associated with Shabab, the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controlled much of Somalia before it was routed by Ethiopian troops in December 2006. Last October, UN investigators reported that the ICU had received six weapons shipments containing several dozen shoulder-fired missiles.
Continue Reading →

Update: Shoulder-fired Missiles in Somalia

In a recent article on the resurgence of Islamic rebels in Somalia, Associated Press reporter Chris Tomlinson provides new information on the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles allegedly supplied to Somali Islamists last year. Tomlinson claims that the Shabab – the military wing of the Council of Islamic Courts – received 200 shoulder-fired missiles from Eritrea, one of three countries that allegedly shipped missiles to Somalia last year in violation of a long-standing UN arms embargo.
Continue Reading →

Fresh Perspectives on Pressing Small Arms Issues

In the latest issue of the Federation of American Scientists’ Public Interest Report, analysts from three continents provide new insights into arms trafficking in Africa, Venezuela’s small arms build-up, and the UN Small Arms Review Conference. Links to these articles, along with an issue overview by FAS analyst Matt Schroeder and a summary of the new book, The Small Arms Trade, are included below.

“Where Have All the Antonovs Gone? The Illicit Small Arms Trade in Africa” by James Bevan, Researcher, Small Arms Survey (Geneva)

“A Recurrent Latin American Nightmare: Venezuela and the Challenge of Controlling State Ammunition Stockpiles” by Pablo Dreyfus, Research Coordinator, Small Arms Control Project, Viva Rio (Rio de Janeiro).

“United Nations Action on Small Arms: Moving Forward from Failure” by Rachel Stohl, Senior Analyst, Center for Defense Information (Washington DC)

“Global Approach Needed to Stem the Trade of Illicit Small Arms,” by Matt Schroeder, Manager of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project, Federation of American Scientists.

“Book Summary: The Small Arms Trade”

Q & A on Shoulder-fired Missile Stockpile Security

In November 2006, FAS analyst Matt Schroeder interviewed Mr. Dave Diaz, formerly the program manager for the DTRA SALW Program and currently the DoD Liaison on the Interagency MANPADS Task Force, about the importance of strong stockpile security practices for preventing the theft, loss and diversion of shoulder-fired missiles, and US efforts to improve stockpile security worldwide.

Below is a transcript of the interview.
Continue Reading →

Questions about Iranian Weapons in Iraq

At an unusual press briefing on Monday, U.S. military officials provided the first physical evidence of Iranian arms shipments to Iraqi extremist groups. The display, which the New York Times called “extraordinary,” consisted of explosively formed penetrators, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile reportedly found in Iraq and bearing Iranian markings. Notably, the officials also claimed to have proof that the operation was being directed by “the highest levels of the Iranian government,” a claim that was rigorously denied by Tehran.

The briefing raised more questions than it answered. Topping the list are questions about the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in the arms shipments. Defense Department officials reportedly provided little proof for their claims of high-level involvement by the Iranian government, and the next day General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chief of staff, appeared to contradict them. Commenting on the captured weaponry, Pace conceded that the weapons “[do] not translate to that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.” Yesterday President Bush sided with General Pace, confirming that “we don’t…know whether the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.”

The captured weapons themselves are also puzzling. Not only were they reportedly manufactured in Iran, they are also emblazoned with manufacture dates and lot numbers – hardly indicative of a government that wants to maintain “plausible deniability.” Architects of covert aid programs usually go to great lengths to conceal their government’s involvement by purchasing weapons from foreign suppliers and clandestinely shipping them through third countries. The Iranians apparently did neither. Why?
Continue Reading →

Bush Gets it Right on Small Arms Threat Reduction

The President’s foreign aid budget request for FY2008 contains an unexpected and laudable surprise: a five-fold increase in funding for the State Department’s Small Arms/Light Weapons Destruction initiaitive. If approved by Congress, the additional funding will bolster US efforts to stem the illicit trade in deadly light weapons.
Continue Reading →

Somalia: Don’t Forget about the Missiles….

With the war against Islamist fighters drawing to a close, Somalia’s transitional government and its foreign allies now face several Herculean tasks: bringing to heel the warlords and militias that have terrorized the country for fifteen years, winning over the various clans and sub-clans that dominate Somali politics, rebuilding the nation’s devastated infrastructure, etc, etc, etc.

In the interest of international security, I would add one more: recovering the dozens of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles reportedly distributed to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), and sanctioning the suppliers.
Continue Reading →

Venezuela’s Military Build-up: Who’s Watching the Guns?


On November 29th, Venezuela received the final shipment of the 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles that it purchased from Russia last year. Despite the high-profile nature of this sale, little is known about Venezuela’s plans for safeguarding the rifles, which would be a hot commodity on the region’s vibrant black market. It’s time to start asking some tough questions about the rifles and President Chavez’s plan for protecting them.
Continue Reading →

Arms to Somalia: Déjà vu

The latest report from the UN group that monitors the arms embargo on Somalia has caused quite a stir, generating extensive news coverage and eliciting vehement denials from governments accused of violating the embargo. But, as underscored by declassified US intelligence documents from the 1990s, such disregard for the embargo is nothing new.

The documents, which were obtained by the FAS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a disheartening similarity between sanctions-busting in the mid-1990’s and sanctions-busting now. From the countries involved to the weapons shipped, little appears to have changed over the last decade.
Continue Reading →

Update: Shoulder-fired Missile Proliferation

There have been several recent reports of the acquisition and (attempted) use of shoulder-fired missiles by terrorists and insurgents. Below is a quick summary of these reports:

El Salvador: Foiled Assassination Attempt
The most dramatic of these reports is that of a foiled assassination attempt against Salvadoran President Tony Saca. During a 6 October interview with the Salvadoran daily El Diario de Hoy, Saca revealed details of the alleged plot, which involved two SA-7 surface-to-air missiles and a Cuban national with alleged ties to the now defunct Medellin drug cartel in Colombia. The suspect, George Nayes, was arrested on September 13th and was subsequently extradited to the United States, where he has reportedly been charged with “drug trafficking and terrorism.”
Continue Reading →