Black market AK-47s flood Sudan’s capital

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The price of an AK-47 assault rifle, one of the most-recognisable weapons of war, has fallen over the last few months by 50% on the black market in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum – now costing only around $830 (£650).

A long-time arms dealer attributed the sharp drop in price to the fact that the black market has become saturated with the Russian-invented Kalashnikov – colloquially known as “the Clash” – after Sudan plunged into a civil war in April.

Battles between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) rage daily on the streets of Khartoum and the two other cities – Bahri and Omdurman – that make up the greater capital.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the man – who buys and sells weapons as a full-time business of sorts – said that although some of his suppliers are retired army officers, most are from the ranks of the RSF.

Supply outstripped demand, especially after what locals refer to as the Battle of Bahri, fought in mid-July, around three months into the conflict that has devastated Sudan.

Corpses of soldiers lay strewn on the streets of Bahri, with government forces having suffered heavy losses at the hands of the paramilitaries, who are in control of much of the city – as well as Khartoum and Omdurman.

“Many soldiers got captured and many more were killed, so our suppliers have plenty of arms,” said the dealer.

This means that he no longer has to rely on “the Clash” being smuggled in via the Sahara Desert from Libya, which he describes as an “open arms market” – a sign of the extent to which lawlessness and instability has engulfed the North African state since the overthrow and killing of long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In the past the smuggled weapons used to be sold mainly to rebels and militiamen involved in long-running conflicts in Sudan, or neighbouring states like Chad.

But now fighters pick up the weapons of killed or captured enemies from the battlefields of greater Khartoum, and sell them via intermediaries to dealers who, in turn, have found a new group of buyers – some residents of the capital worried about the war, lawlessness and dangers on their doorsteps.

Having learned of dealers though word of mouth, residents call them up to place an order. The dealers deliver the AK-47 rifle to their homes, and give them a quick demonstration of how to use a weapon they had never imagined they would own.

Ammunition is sold separately – by dealers hanging around Omdurman’s main market called Souq Omdurman.

A 55-year-old father of six said he bought an AK-47 rifle because of rising crime, and “potential attacks from other people in Khartoum”.

“They might just attack you, for whatever reason. It might turn into an ethnic war. You never know. That is our main fear,” he added.