The research, "The Online Trade Of Light Weapons In Libya," conducted by the Small Arms Survey, provides detailed information on how the firearm trade on Facebook is propagating.

It started during the fall of the Qaddafi regime, which had earlier established strict gun control laws that prohibited the trading of gun wares across the country. Libya, then, saw a sudden increase of weapon trade in the black market as regulations were lifted.

These firearms traders took advantage of available technology to market their wares and as such, social media sites were abused, specifically, Facebook.

It is fairly easy for anyone to register on the site and put up an online shop to promote and sell their products. Of course, not everything is allowed to be sold on Facebook, because the website recently banned the promotion and selling of firearms on their online shops. This, however, didn't stop light weapons dealers in Libya from exploiting the feature.

Now under scrutiny, closed and private groups have been set-up to discreetly continue illegal firearms deals between peer-to-peer transactions.

These transactions, listed in the study (PDF), include heavy machine guns (HMGs); shoulder-fired recoilless weapons and rocket launchers; anti-tank guided weapons; man-portable air defense systems; grenade launchers; anti-material rifles and other weapons.

Key findings of the data lists that: major and populous areas are the most active in illegal firearms trading, supplies and demands may either be affected by the disposal of disregarded weapons by alleged "non-state" armed groups or the demands of these groups for available weaponry.

The study also discovered that light weapons are pricey and this suggests that well-off groups may be the main patrons rather than individuals. Although the absence of certain light weapons may be due to the fact that the recent Qaddafi rule had accumulated these weapons, specifically, mortars and crew-served recoilless guns.

These light weapons may have originated from pre-1992 imports. However, there are also those from the period between 2003 and 2011, and possibly after 2011.

Lastly, most of the firearms with identifiable routes of origin can be categorically placed in the Warsaw Pact region, not limited to the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.

"Online illicit arms markets are still in their infancy in the Middle East and North Africa region, and may continue to develop in both technical sophistication, and the variety and volume of small arms or light weapons offered for sale," the report says.

"Advanced study is needed to identify the sources of arms outside state control and help curb the further proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Libya and the wider region," it adds.

Photo: Bhupinder Nayyar | Flickr

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