Tehran will face renewed international pressure over its involvement in arms smuggling when a trial scheduled to start today in Nigeria is set to reveal details of a botched Iranian operation to supply weapons to guerrillas in West Africa.
Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747, which was passed in 2007, Iran is banned from the purchase or export of weapons. But a detailed investigation by Western intelligence officials following the seizure of weapons at the Nigerian port of Apapa last October has exposed a well-coordinated plot by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to supply a number of Islamic rebel groups in West Africa. These include Muslim militants in northern Nigeria and other militias battling the government in Lagos for a bigger share of the lucrative oil revenues from the Niger delta.
Some of the weapons, which comprised rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and assault rifles, were also destined for rebel groups based in Senegal and Gambia. They were concealed in a cargo of construction materials in 13 shipping containers.
A key defendant in the trial will be Azim Aghajani, an Iranian national who has been identified by intelligence officials as a senior officer of the Qods Force, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for supporting overseas Islamist militant groups. He was one of two Iranians who sought sanctuary at the Iranian embassy in Abuja immediately following the seizure of the weapons, which was triggered by a tip…