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WEAPONS FROM IRAN TO GAZA SEIZED IN NIGERIA

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The shipping containers filled with illegal weapons seized in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday 11/01/2010, came from Iran, a leading global shipping company said Saturday.

The company, CMA CGM, said it was a victim of false cargo declaration. The shipper, who the company identified as an Iranian trader, had listed the materials inside the containers as “packages of glass wool and pallets of stone.”

The containers in question were loaded in Bandar Abbas, a port in southern Iran, and discharged in Lagos in July 2010, the company said. They were then transferred to a depot.

Last week, the shipper asked that the containers be re-loaded and sent to Gambia, CMA CGM said in a statement, adding that the trader had obtained the necessary documentation and clearance for customs. 

Authorities in Nigeria intervened before the containers were moved.

Nigeria’s security service said earlier this week that it had seized 13 shipping containers in the Lagos port filled with illegal weapons, including rockets, grenades and bullets. Each shipping container carries 20 wooden crates. It was the same method used in the FRANCOP case.

The seizure comes as Nigeria prepares for the 2011 elections, which analysts say are likely to be one of the most-controversial and potentially most-violent elections in the country’s history (see also – Jos 03.08.10).

The questions over the discovery of weapons in Nigeria are yet to be answered. Unofficial reports said the weapons originated from Iran and were directed to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, Iran’s embassy in Nigeria said it won’t elaborate on the military-grade weaponry seized in by Nigerian port authorities. A statement released Monday conveyed that “any unnecessary word would add to the confusion already existing.” The embassy also said no Iranian had been arrested over the weapons seizure, the AP reported.

Nigerian security agents found the shipment contained 107 mm katyusha rockets and other weapons.

An Iranian man, Azim Aghajani (pic), has been charged with arms trafficking in a Nigerian court, on Thursday 11/25/2010, in connection with the shipment of weapons.

Azim Aghajani appeared in court in Abuja, but did not enter a plea. Court documents reportedly identified Azim Aghajani as a Tehran businessman, and also a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (see also – Ukrainian-Connection ).
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 * Nigerian Federal High Court in Lagos, on 05/13/2013, convicted Azim Aghajani of smuggling arms into Nigeria and determibed he was an Iranian Revoulutionary Guard officer acting in behalf of Iran. Azim Aghajani was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Nigerian Usman Abbas Jega was convicted alongside Azim Aghajani, who is on a UN blacklist..

Court documents said the weapons were due for re-export to The Gambia, in defiance of a UN arms embargo on Iran. There has been speculation that they could have been intended for The Gambia’s neighbour, Senegal, where there is a low-level rebellion in the south. But the final destination of the weapons has not been established. .

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