Arms prices soar as Mogadishu braces for fresh violence
Apr 26, 2006
Mogadishu - Bananas, grapefruit and watermelon are piled high alongside gleaming Kalashnikov assault rifles, hand grenades and sub-machine guns in the Cirtogte arms market, located in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Business is brisk at the 'skyshooters' stand, as the famous AK47 weapons are called are called in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
Arms prices have recently skyrocketed following reports that militias allied to Somalia's Islamic courts and a rival group led by powerful politicians, called the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, were rearming to renew battle for control of the capital city Mogadishu.
'We sell more than 1.5 million dollars of arms each month directly to whichever faction orders them first,' said Ahmed Omar, an arms dealer in Bakaro Cirtogte Market.
'Our reserve supplies are being bought up as soon as they arrive by the rival factions, who are also closely monitoring the market to ensure their enemies don't get an upper hand in the arms race,' he added.
Mogadishu citizens are still shaken by heavy fighting between the two factions in late March, said to be the worst in recent years, that killed more than 100 people. It also caused the panicked exodus of thousands more as the Islamic courts try to wrest control of the city, in the hands of warlords since Somalia's government was overthrown in 1991.
The famously reliable Kalashnikov was selling for 530 dollars apiece, while a week before it cost just 370 dollars. Still expensive for many locals who remember it only going for 80 dollars not so long ago.
The militias have started deploying their fighters at strategic points in the war-shattered, city while arms consignments from neighbouring countries flow in.
The Islamic militias have also reportedly beefed up their fighting forces with an estimated 1,000 men recruited from abroad after declaring a jihad (holy war) against the coalition of prominent warlords-turned-politicians.
The new alliance, said to be supported by the United States, wants to curb the growing influence of the brutal but efficient courts, currently the only functioning law enforcment agency in the city.
'This round of fighting will be the worst,' said Hassan Moalim Yusuf, a human rights activist.
'Somalia will not be different from Iraq or Afghanistan because the coalition is getting help from the United States while the Sharia groups are using the people as shields,' he added.
Despite denials of links to the al-Qaeda terror network, the courts make no secret of their wish to install Islamist rule in the country. Somalis, overwhelmingly anti-Western Muslims, seem more wary of the reported American interest in its internal religious affairs.
Meanwhile, President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed's fledgling and largely ineffective transitional government recently announced that it was moving to the southern town of Baidoa, further away from Mogadishu than Jowhar, the previous temporary government base 80 kilometres from the troubled capital city.
The Ethiopian-backed former warlord says Mogadishu is not safe for his government, already split in two with the powerful speaker of parliament Shariff Hassan, who is supported by Mogadishu warlords, refusing to budge from the capital.
Reports of foreign involvement are fanning existing tensions in a country that is also suffering from the effects of a regional drought that has left at least 8 million people on the brink of starvation in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur