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Tuesday, July 10, 2001, updated at 08:42(GMT+8)

Feature: Somalia Moaning in Gunfire

"They talk about an administration and the people are just getting killed on daily bases," Abdulle Ahmed Ali, an angry old Somalis upset about the increasing crimes in the capital Mogadishu, told Xinhua Monday in Mogadishu.

"Here and there, everyday and every hour you hear of fighting or some people got killed in what's termed as banditry related incidents," he said.

It is true that the Somalis have been dying everyday in either fighting or robbery. Despite draughts and natural disasters such as floods, it is very clear that weapons have been killing the Somalis more than anything else in the past 10 years ever since the late regime was toppled in 1990.

It is easy to become a famous killer or even a warlord here in Somalia because all the means needed for such titles are in hands' reach for everyone. The weapons of all kinds are available and are sold in the open markets in the capital Mogadishu.

There are over five main weapons markets here in Mogadishu and the largest is the Bakara market. As you get close to it, you might hear of some shooting and sometimes even deafening noise of a gun. "Don't worry, these are the sky shooters," the people around the market would tell you.

Every time a gun is sold, it is tested before the money is paid. It depends upon the kind of the gun, but all of the assault rifles and the well-sought PKM guns (long-range gun cherished by militiamen) are being tested in the middle of the people with the weapons dealers aiming the gun at the sky for a client.

"The anti-aircraft guns and mortars are tested a little outside the market place," Mohamed Ali Dubbad, one of those selling the weapons, told the reporter. "It's terrible, but we got used to these sky shooters," said a lady who was selling mattresses only 30 meters away.

Mogadishu's street fighters like the AK-47 assault rifles very much and more than any other gun. "Because unlike the American M16 and Sar-80s, the AK-47s are almost equally light in weight and can operate in the moisture and dust and sand," Dubbad said. "That's why and even among Ak-47s, the Russian and Korean made ones are the best."

In the Bakara market, you can find AK-47s from Libya, Egypt, Russia, Korea and Yugoslavia. But the most expensive ones are the Russian and Korean ones which each cost 200 U.S. dollars, while the rest each cost 150 dollars.

In the weapons markets, there are also other assault rifles such as the German made assault rifle G-3. "But this is the heaviest and most of the gunmen are very young boys and thin and they can not stand its weight," said Ahmed Farah Nur, another weapons dealer in Argentine weapons market. The G-3 and the American M16 and Sar-80 each cost 100 dollars.

The prices of guns are all the time also affected by the availability of its ammunition. "When the ammunition is available in abundance, its gun is expensive and vice versa," said Nur. "For instance, the bullets for the M16 and Sar-80 guns are scarce in the markets, that's another reason why they are cheap compared to the AK-47s."

Also, when there's fighting going on somewhere between two clans, assault rifles and ammunition also become more expensive as the demand goes higher and higher and vice versa, when there's peace the weapons become cheep in price.

Since the late regime was toppled, Somalia has been enjoying a free market economy. "But the freedom has been abused," said Abdi Ahmed Dhuhulow, a parliamentarian in Mogadishu.

If you go to the weapons markets, you can as well buy heavy anti-aircraft guns such as the Zuu-23mm and the 37mm guns. Nur told the reporter that the last Zuu-23mm anti-aircraft gun was sold at 54,000 dollars. "A faction leader bought it, but I don't want to mention his name," he said.

There are no exact figures ever released over the number of guns possibly in the hands of civilians here in Mogadishu. But rough statistics made by some aid agencies indicated that there are over 1 million assault rifles in this city, with an estimated population of be a little over 1.5 million.

This shows that two-thirds of Mogadishu's citizens are armed and this is what the aid agencies believe why it is so difficult to make a workable administration for Mogadishu all this time. Also, it is believed that more than 300,000 people have died for famine and bullets during this time of the civil war in Somalia.

As a result, the new transitional government of Somalia is having one of its main tasks to disarm Mogadishu and unless there is a major financial support from the international community, it will be very unlikely to happen.

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"They talk about an administration and the people are just getting killed on daily bases," Abdulle Ahmed Ali, an angry old Somalis upset about the increasing crimes in the capital Mogadishu, told Xinhua Monday in Mogadishu.

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