Libyan spillover - West Africa meet

2011-10-04 20:21

Abuja - West African defence chiefs met on Tuesday to discuss issues including a potential spillover of insecurity resulting from the conflict in Libya as well as Liberia's upcoming elections.

The two-day meeting of the Ecowas Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff will also look at counter-terrorism measures, with a number of nations hit by attacks and kidnappings, and maritime security amid a sharp increase in piracy.

"The instability in Libya and its anticipated spillover to our sub-region as well as the recent upsurge in acts of terror being experienced in several countries, including Nigeria, are issues that require urgent attention," Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff Oluseyi Petinrin said at the meeting's start.

Saadi Gaddafi, a son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, three generals and a former security services chief were among 32 close associates of Gaddafi to take refuge in Niger, an Ecowas member.

Niger has also expressed concern over a proliferation of arms from Libya.

A mini-summit as well as a meeting of defence chiefs last month among six Ecowas countries had focused on security threats along the border between Ivory Coast and Liberia, particularly with Liberian elections set for October 11.

Tuesday's meeting of defence chiefs from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States was expected to follow up on those issues.

Seizures of large quantities of arms and munitions in Liberia in the border regions of Ivory Coast have deepened concerns ahead of the vote.

Ivory Coast's election violence following its disputed November vote left weapons and mercenaries circulating between the neighbouring countries.

The meeting also comes after Benin and Nigeria last week launched joint sea patrols to tackle a surge in piracy that has raised alarm in the shipping industry.

The coast of Benin, which neighbours Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has seen at least 20 piracy incidents this year compared to none last year.

The commander of UN forces in Liberia Major General Muhammad Khalil and UN forces in Ivory Coast Brigadier General Talla Niang were among those attending the meeting.