By Hassan Isilow
Nigeria's notorious Boko Haram insurgents are using weapons that were looted from Libyan arms depots during the 2011 uprising, a South African diplomat has said.
"There were a lot of arms that were looted during the war," Mohammed Dangor, South Africa's former Ambassador to Libya told The Anadolu Agency on Monday night after delivering an address at the opening of a major conference on political Islam held in Pretoria.
He said some of weapons looted during and since a 2011 uprising that ousted long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi were later smuggled into Niger, Chad, Mali and Nigeria, among other African countries.
"Looted arms have created a cycle of instability in the region," Dangor, who has just returned to South Africa after serving as ambassador to Libya from 2009 to Dec. 2014, told AA.
He asserted that the African Union's stabilization force needs to intervene and deal with the Boko Haram insurgency otherwise the militants will continue to wreak havoc in Nigeria and the region.
Asked if it would be a good idea for South Africa to deploy troops to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram militants, Dangor said there is an AU meeting taking place this week.
"We shouldn't pre-empty. They will come up with ways to deal with the situation," he told AA.
For the last five years, Nigeria has fought the Boko Haram insurgency, which has ravaged the country's volatile northeast and claimed thousands of lives.
The year 2014 proved to be the insurgency's bloodiest year yet, with increasingly frequent attacks, higher death tolls and a deluge of displaced persons.
A seemingly emboldened Boko Haram recently stepped up its militant activity, seizing several areas of Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, where it has since declared a self-styled "Islamic caliphate."
According to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, 981,416 people had been displaced by recent militant activity while as many as nine million had been "directly or indirectly affected" by the violence.
Ambassador Dangor asserted that Boko Haram and Somalia's Al-Qaeda-allied Al-Shabaab militant group are tarnishing the image of Islam.
"Extremists distort the teachings of Islam," he told AA. "They claim to be representing Islam, but what they are doing is not what Islam teaches."
The diplomat, who previously served as South Africa's ambassador to Syria and Lebanon, denied recent reports that South African citizens were being recruited to join the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group.
"There is no evidence that South African citizens went to Iraq or Syria to join the ISIL," he said.
Ambassador Dangor, however, called for vigilance within communities to ensure this does not happen.
Late last year, Iraqi Ambassador to South Africa Hushaim al-Alawi said South African citizens were being recruited to join and fight for ISIL.
"Over the past few months, we have received information that South African citizens have been killed in Syria," the Iraqi diplomat told AA in an interview at the time.
He said three South African nationals had been killed in Syria while reportedly fighting for ISIL.
The three-day international conference is organized by the Afro-Middle East Center, a research institute and think tank which focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, and the region's relationship with Africa.