The Price of Civil War: A Survey of Arms Markets in Somalia


After the publication of the report “An Iranian Fingerprint? in November 2021, the current report presents additional results from the eight-month field data collection, conducted by GI-TOC field researchers between December 2020 and August 2021.

The analysis is structured in three parts:

  • The first is a price study of 13 illicit markets across Somalia that GI-TOC has surveyed;
  • The second highlights four interesting case studies, including equipment of Iranian and Saudi origin, as well as a series of Chinese assault rifles doctored to look like they were Russian-made;
  • The third part presents a brief summary of the results of the ammunition survey.

Main findings

  • More than 60% of illicit weapons found in Somalia were made in China.
  • Nearly 95% of illicit weapons found in Somalia were assault or combat rifles.
  • Arms price trends support the idea that illicit flows originate in northern Somalia and spread southward.
  • Assault rifles made in China and Russia were priced almost identically in illicit markets, although Russian rifles were generally decades older.
  • KLS and KLF assault rifles believed to be Iranian-made – possibly part of illicit arms transfers from Iran to Yemen – have also been documented by our researchers.
  • NATO-caliber G3 combat rifles and corresponding ammunition – some of which are Saudi-made – are increasingly common in northern Somalia.
  • Weapons from Somali federal government stockpiles continue to leak into the illicit market.
  • More than 20 weapons with similarly forged serial numbers have been found in southern Somalia – apparently Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, modified to appear Russian.
  • Weapons diverted to Puntland from Iranian and Saudi transfers to their respective allies involved in the conflict in Yemen could have particularly destabilizing consequences in the region.
  • The deteriorating security situation in northern Somalia could also make it easier for arms trafficking networks to operate.
  • In the future, arms trafficking networks in Somalia may well extend further into the Horn of Africa.

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