Black Market Arms Trade Booms On Iraqi Facebook Groups

An Iraqi arms dealer in Baghdad tells Vocativ that residents are buying weapons to use against ISIS

Iraqi policemen with rifles seized in Sadr City in 2008. — AFP/Getty Images
Jan 20, 2016 at 7:42 AM ET

Iraqi arms dealers and buyers are using closed Facebook groups to peddle and purchase everything from assault rifles and pistols to flak jackets, Vocativ deep web analysts have discovered. An Iraqi arms dealer living in Baghdad told Vocativ that locals are buying the weapons to use against ISIS, although he said the underground arms market started in 2003 following the U.S invasion of the country.

The arms dealer, who lives in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim slum in east Baghdad, said the guns are so inexpensive that “even poor people” can afford them. “The people who buy these weapons are common and poor people, not rich,” he said, declining to give his name. He said the weapons are used for protection. “You know the situation in Iraq, there is war,” he said. “Common people couldn’t protect themselves and now we learned from this lesson.”

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The weapons purchased are “pointed only against Daesh,” he said, referring to the Arabic acronym for ISIS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq. He said Shiite leaders in Iraq have advised residents to “take their weapons and go for jihad against ISIS, even the women and children,” if the terror group attacks. But he adds: “We are not afraid of them.”

Used Glock and Beretta handguns are being advertised on the Facebook groups and sold in Iraq for the equivalent of $800-900 in Iraqi currency. Still, that’s more expensive than similar weapons cost in other markets. Used Beretta and Glock handguns in the U.S., for example, go for between $500 and $600. The Romanian WASR-10 (AK-47) costs between $700 and $900 on the Iraqi Facebook groups, but between $450 and $650 in the U.S., Vocativ found.

One flak jacket being sold in a Facebook group had a piece of paper attached to it that said the vest was “supplied by” Mushriqui Consulting LLC, what appears to be a U.S.-based consultancy. It was unclear how the dealers obtained the jacket or the weapons.

This ad on Facebook shows an AK-47 being sold Baghdad for 850,000 Iraqi Dinar, which is around $768.

A flak vest described as “supplied by” Mushriqui Consulting LLC is going for 40,000 Iraqi Dinar—roughly $36.