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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Bullets 'flooding Baghdad market'
Iraqi insurgent in Falluja
Insurgents have no problems finding arms and ammunition
A lack of international control over the global bullets trade is partly to blame for the spiralling bloodshed in Iraq, a report has found.

Research carried out by the UK-based charity Oxfam says Baghdad's black market is awash with new ammunition.

Much of it originated from factories in Eastern Europe and Russia, according to the report.

It says the ammunition was either smuggled in or leaked from the supplies imported by coalition forces.

Statistics in the report show some of the ammunition examined was manufactured over 20 years ago.

New ammunition is widely available on Baghdad's black market
Barbara Stocking

But much of it was new and in good condition, with production dates ranging from 1999 to 2004, it says.

"New ammunition is widely available on Baghdad's black market," Oxfam director Barbara Stocking told Reuters news agency.

Working on behalf of Oxfam, researchers from Doctors for Iraq examined bullets from two black market sources in Baghdad.

Most are said have been manufactured after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Many of the bullets had been made in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania and Russia, the report added.

Just how they got to Iraq is not clear.

Veiled Iraqi women looking at an AK 47 assault rifle
The global bullet market is worth an annual $2-$3bn
"Either they were smuggled into Iraq from neighbouring countries or they have leaked from the vast supplies imported by coalition forces to equip the new Iraqi security forces," the report says.

It adds that weak controls on the global ammunition trade and weak stockpile security mean that high-quality ammunition is "accessible to individuals and militia groups alike".

Up to 14 billion bullets are manufactured every year, but there is very little reliable data about who buys them and how they are used, the report says. Export data exists for only 17% of the bullets on the market, leaving over 80% of global supplies unaccounted for.

Blaming Iraq's humanitarian crisis on the lack of international monitoring, the report calls for a new set of global standards to be put in place for regulating the supply of small arms and ammunition.

$3bn market

In Baghdad, bullets for an AK-47 assault rifle cost between 15 and 45 cents each (8p to 24p each), depending on the manufacturer and the age of the bullet.

Medical sources say that most of those who have died from gunshot wounds were hit by between four and 12 bullets.

At least 76 countries are known to manufacture small arms ammunition in a global market worth an estimated $2-$3bn (up to 1.6bn) per year, Oxfam says.

Global output is estimated to be between 10 to 14 billion rounds per year, or an average of 33 million rounds per day.

The campaign group Iraq Body Count estimates that, on the basis of media reports, the number of civilians killed since the outset of the conflict ranges between 38,355 and 42,747.

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