Nigerian seizure may indicate new Iran-Hamas weapons route
The Nigerian secret service on Tuesday intercepted 13 containers of rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons from an Iranian ship in the port of Lagos. The weapons were camouflaged as building materials. The Nigerian State Security Service received intelligence ahead of time and was prepared for the attempt to smuggle the weapons via Lagos.
Israeli sources believe that the discovery is a sign of a new smuggling route from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. "Perhaps the Iranians were planning to unload the weapons in Nigeria and transfer them by land to Sudan and Sinai," an Israeli Foreign Ministry senior source said. An Israeli defence official noted that this is the third time in the past year that Iran has been caught attempting to smuggle weapons by sea. In November 2009, the Israeli Navy boarded a ship in the Mediterranean carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran, intended for Hezbollah. In September this year, an arms delivery from Iran to Syria was intercepted in Italy and an arms shipment from North Korea to Syria was captured in a Greek port. Israel and Nigeria hold security, trade and diplomatic relations. Last year, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Nigeria with Nitzan Nuriel, director of the Counter Terrorism Bureau.
Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday implemented a new set of sanctions against Iran which focus on restricting the country's energy, transportation and bank sectors. The measueres were decided on in July. They include restrictions on Iranian shipping lines believed to be involved in illicit weapons proliferation. The UK Treasury issued detailed guidance to UK financial institutions yesterday on how to implement the sanctions. The EU sanctions are considered tougher than the fourth round of UN sanctions and could affect a number of EU-Iranian gas deals.
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