IS using Serbian weaponry in the Sahel: Amnesty

IS using state-of-the-art Serbian weaponry in the Sahel: Amnesty
2 min read
24 August, 2021
An investigation by Amnesty International has found that Serbian weapons have made their way into the hands of Islamic State group fighters in the Sahel region of Africa.
Amnesty says the weapons were likely traded illicitly or captured in battle [Getty]

State-of-the-art Serbian weapons are being used by armed factions in the Sahel region of Africa - including affiliates of the Islamic State group - according to an extensive investigation undertaken by weapons experts for Amnesty International.

These Serbian-manufactured weapons match trade records of Serbia's sales to Burkina Faso, suggesting they were first sold to government forces before finding their way into insurgents' hands.

The weapons include new rifles and the latest available gun models.

Weapons experts who analysed videos released by these militant groups found that exported weapons have also come from France, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

"The conflict in the Sahel has been characterised by serious human rights violations by all parties, including massacres of civilians by unaccountable armed groups. More than a million people have been displaced in the region, and the humanitarian crisis is fast becoming one of the worst in the world," said Patrick Wilcken, Head of Business, Security and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

More than 400 pieces of digital content, including propaganda videos and social media posts by members of armed groups between January 2018 and May 2021, were analysed.

Imagery shows weapons stockpiles, including the decades-old Kalashnikovs of Soviet origin, but also more modern weaponry including the M02 Coyote heavy machine guns, M92 and M05 series rifles and the most up-to-date M05E3 models.

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Amnesty hasn't been able to trace the chain of custody for these weapons, but says it is likely government purchases were diverted to arms groups through "illicit channels or battlefield capture".

"In this increasingly dire context, states must act with extreme caution when considering arms transfers to the Sahel. Not only is there an unacceptably high risk of diversion to armed groups, national armies and police forces in the region have appalling human rights records," Wilcken added.

"Ahead of the annual Arms Trade Treaty conference next week, we urge all states to live up to their obligations and refrain from any arms transfers that could fuel human rights violations."