Small arms manufactured in the Balkans continue to appear in
terrorist attacks worldwide as well as in the conflicts in Yemen, Libya, and
Sudan, a sign that the Balkan arms trade is as prosperous as ever. Supplies of
small arms in the region – mostly a legacy from the Balkans wars in the 1990s –
replenish Western governments’ arsenals, especially those destined to provide
support to militias they back in the Middle East. According to the Armament
Research Service (ARES), 17 percent of the ammunition used by the Islamic State
in 2015 in Iraq was produced in the Balkans. The implication on a local level, The Economist reports, is an
impressively high number of small size firearms owned by private citizens in
the Balkans, estimated to be around 6 million.
From The Economist:
“On a continent with strict gun laws, Balkan
guns have been a blessing for organised crime, too. A study of 26 gang weapons
seized in Marseille found nine were Kalashnikovs from the former Yugoslavia.
French police report that Albanian gunrunners bring in 20 of the rifles at a
time, concealed in the floors of vans. In 2014 Slovakian police stopped an
entire lorry full of guns and grenades heading from Bosnia to Sweden. […]
In 2014 American,
Australian, British and Canadian military cargo planes collected 22m rounds of
Kalashnikov ammunition and other arms from Albania and delivered them to
Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq.
In that case the munitions were free: Albania donated them to
earn political credit with Washington, says Evelyn Farkas, a former American
defence official. But in most cases the contracts are lucrative. Many of the
militias that Western countries back in the Middle East use weapons from the
former communist bloc, especially the cheap, reliable, long-lasting AK-47.
Since Western countries do not make them, Balkan sources come in handy. America
has been buying crates of Kalashnikovs from Serbia’s Zastava since the late
2000s, mainly for Iraqi and Afghan security forces.”