Grenades are kind of pricey at $95.
THE WAR IN IRAQ
Guns proliferate after shrine blast
An aide to Iraq's prime minister worries aloud about a plethora of 'light weapons'
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
New York Times
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - With chipped, painted fingernails, Nahrawan al-Janabi picked up a cartridge and slid it into the chamber.
"Like this," she said, loading her new Glock pistol with a loud, satisfying click. "You see, like this."
Akram Abdulzahra now keeps his revolver handy as he works in an Internet cafe.
Haidar Hussein, a Baghdad bookseller, just bought a fully automatic assault rifle.
Iraq has long been awash with guns. But after the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra in late February, sectarian tensions exploded, and more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying and stockpiling weapons, adding an unnerving level of firepower to Baghdad's streets.
The average price for a Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, which is perfectly legal in Iraq, has jumped to $290 from $112 in the past month, according to several gun dealers. The cost of individual bullets has climbed to 33 cents each from 24 cents.
Hand grenades, which are illegal but easy to get, run $95. Pre-Samarra, they were about half that. The swiftly rising prices are one clear sign that weapon sales are hot.
Militia ranks are swelling, too, with growing swarms of young, religious, mostly uneducated men taking to the streets with machine guns slung over their shoulders.
Hussein Abdul Khaliq, a foot soldier in the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia, was guarding a strip of curb in eastern Baghdad the other day and violating several laws in the process — all within sight of a police patrol.
For starters, Khaliq did not have a permit to carry the AK-47 his militia had issued him. He also had many more than the authorized limit of 50 rounds. And he was well below the minimum age for carrying a gun, which is 25.
"Let them try to take it from me," the muscular 17-year-old said.
The U.S. military has added to the arsenal by shipping in hundreds of thousands of firearms and millions of rounds of ammunition, in an effort to equip Iraqi security forces so U.S. troops can leave.
Iraqi leaders are increasingly worried about this gun glut.
"We collected most of the heavy weapons out there, but we should have collected all the light weapons," said Haider al-Ebadi, an aide to the prime minister. "This is not good."
But the reality is that Iraqi politicians have been reluctant to disband militias or to disarm the populace. One reason is that the Shiite leaders who control the government rely on the support of militias to stay in power. Another is that guns have become so embedded in Iraqi culture that they are as ubiquitous as palm trees.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was one of the most militarized societies on the planet.
After he was toppled, security evaporated, opening the floodgates for looters, car-jackers, kidnappers and thieves. In response, many civilians bought guns and embraced a frontier mentality.
The middle east has been awashed with all types of weapons from most if not every world war and regional war to date.
As far as the price, estimates are you can pick up a used AK47 in saharan africa for $50 dollars.
A good friend of mine who happens to be a contractor has alot of goodies stashed in his locker over there at the company HQ: MP5's, PKMs, AKs, ParaSAWs...... (Kinda depressing talking about it)
"All guns, and no butter."