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World Population Day

Illicit trade of AK 47

Cambodian AK-47 with black furniture

Throughout the world, the AK and its variants are among the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to governments, rebels, criminals, and civilians alike, with little international oversight. In some countries, prices for AKs are very low; in Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Congo and Ethiopia, prices are between $30 and $125 per weapon, and prices have fallen in the last few decades due to mass counterfeiting. Moisés Naím observed that in a small town in Kenya in 1986, an AK-47 cost fifteen cows but that in 2005, the price was down to four cows indicating that supply was "immense". The weapon has appeared in a number of conflicts including clashes in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

After the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, the Soviet Army left quantities of weapons including AKs which were subsequently used in the civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance and were also exported to Pakistan. The gun is now also made in Pakistan's semi-autonomous areas (see more at Khyber Pass Copy). It is widely used by tribes in Africa like the Hamer, amongst others.

The World Bank estimates that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million of which are AK-47s. Mikhail Kalashnikov addressed the United Nations in 2006 at a conference aimed at solving the problem of illicit weapons, saying that he appreciated the AK-47's role in state-sponsored defense but that counterfeit weapons carrying his name in the hands of "terrorists and thugs" caused him regret.

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