A Nigerian Army operation targeting armed bandits suspected of cattle rustling killed 18 individuals near Dansadau in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Zamfara, on May 4, 2016. Amongst the weapons recovered were 11 AK-type self-loading rifles, 1 G3-type self-loading rifle and a craft-produced break-action, single-shot pistol. One of the AK-type rifles appears to be an AK-103, a relatively modern rifle produced by IZHMASH (now Kalashnikov Concern) in Russia.
The AK-103 is a comparatively modern variant of the AK family, based primarily on the Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy (AKM), an updated AK series rifle introduced in 1959. It shares features with other rifles in the so-called “AK-100 series,” including black synthetic furniture and magazines, a black phosphate finish on metal parts, a distinctive AK-74 type muzzle brake, a side-folding solid polymer stock and an optical sight rail on the left-hand side of the receiver.
Whilst the rifle pictured could, in fact, be an AK-101 (chambered for 5.56×45mm) or an AK-74M (chambered for 5.45×39mm), the presence of primarily 7.62×39mm magazines amongst those AK magazines pictured, and the apparent absence of 5.56×45 or 5.45×39mm ammunition from the loose cartridges pictured, as well as the nature of the other weapons present, suggest that the weapon is most likely an AK-103. The image appears to be lightly distorted; however, the steel magazine second from the left in the top row appears to be a Chinese style 5.56×45mm magazine. This may further support the possibility that the weapon is an AK-101 (adopted in limited numbers elsewhere in Africa); however, an AK-103 remains the most likely identification.
Whilst the exact source of this weapon cannot be ascertained from this image alone, the most likely proximate source is Libya. In late 2003 or early 2004, the Gaddafi government in Libya began negotiations with Russia for the purchase of a range of arms and munitions, including a sizable but ultimately unknown quantity of AK-103-2 self-loading rifles. ARES has previously conducted an extensive assessment of shipping documents, packaging and AK-103 rifles documented in Libya and elsewhere within the MENA region. AK-103 rifles have further proliferated from Libya and have been identified in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Tunisia. None of these states–or Nigeria–is known to have imported AK-103 rifles.
Special thanks to Alex Wambugu.