US said to block Israeli arms deal with Nigeria

Washington cites human rights abuses and widespread corruption in nixing helicopter sale, report says

Illustrative photo of a Cobra AH-1 attack helicopter (photo credit: Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

The US reportedly vetoed a 2014 arms sale of US-made Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria over human rights abuses.

Though the resale of decommissioned gunships was approved by Israel’s Defense Ministry, Washington nixed the deal over concerns that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties in its ongoing fight with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, Haaretz reported Monday.

The canceled sale has further strained Washington’s already tense ties with Nigeria over the government’s response to the five-year-long insurgency by the Islamist group.

Beyond its concern over human rights abuses, the Obama administration has significantly limited its security assistance to the central African nation in recent months, due to widespread government corruption and a possible Boko Haram infiltration into the Nigerian military, The New York Times reported in December.

Though Asia remains Israel’s biggest arms customer, military exports to African nations virtually doubled in 2013.  A total of $224 million worth of arms and military technology was sold to African countries, compared to $107 million in 2012.

According to defense sources, a second African country could be a potential buyer for the helicopters, though the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.

During a visit to Nigeria this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Washington was prepared to increase its support for the fight against Boko Haram, provided the upcoming national elections there take place peacefully and democratically.

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