By MacDonald Dzirutwe
LAGOS (Reuters) - Significant proportions of weapons and arms seized from Islamist insurgents in Niger came from West African state stockpiles, suggesting authorities are struggling to secure arms stores in the region, a report said on Monday.
There was no suggestion that any governments were sending weapons to militants who have launched attacks in Niger as well as Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), the group that published the report, said.
Instead, the findings showed that "maintaining custody of military material represents a challenge for the region's national security forces, particularly those engaged in active military and counterterrorism operations," CAR added.
The group said it had identified 165 weapons and 6,243 pieces of ammunition in October 2019 that authorities had recovered from Islamist fighters in Diffa, southeast Niger.
Since then, it said it had been tracing the arms, checking with governments and suppliers.
About 17% of the weapons came from stockpiles in Chad, Nigeria and Niger while 23% of ammunition originated from stockpiles in Nigeria, the report said.
Nigeria and Chad's government did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. A Niger government spokesman was not reachable for comment.
Militants from Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and other groups have built strongholds in the Lake Chad region and launched repeated cross border raids since 2015.
There was evidence that Boko Haram and ISWAP militants used local black markets and smuggling channels to procure arms, CAR said.
Nearly half the weapons it studied were either manufactured in African countries or originated from stocks that had been exported to a country in northern or western Africa, the report said.
Some of the weapons had similiarities to ones recovered from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and their allies in West Africa, indicating that the groups may overlap or use the same supply mechanisms, the report added.
(Additional reporting by Mahamat Ramadane in N'djamena and Boureima Balima in Niamey, Editing by Andrew Heavens)