Mozambique blows up thousands of civil war guns

Mozambique blew up thousands of guns and landmines on Wednesday in the biggest single act of destruction of arms in an 11-year-old programme to rid the region of its civil war-era weapons.


The huge explosion destroyed some 3,400 rifles, mines, rocket launchers and other weapons, sending shrapnel high into the air in a blast that could be felt by journalists 2 km (1.25 miles) from the site near Bilene, north of the capital Maputo.

Mozambique launched Operation Rachel together with neighbouring South Africa, with funding from foreign donors, to prevent the many weapons caches left after Mozambique's civil war ended in 1992 from reaching the hands of violent criminals.

Nearly 40,000 small arms and light weapons, over 23,000 cannon rounds, 14,000 grenades and 13,500 rockets have been gathered and destroyed in Mozambique in the 11 years since Operation Rachel began, according to the British government which helps fund the programme.

Officials involved in the operation said this year's haul had been among the best in terms of the number and condition of weapons handed in.

The ordnance destroyed on Wednesday included around 870 AK48 assault rifles, of which 80 percent were in perfect working condition, they said.

Arno Lamoer, a divisional commissioner in South Africa's police force, said the rising price of guns showed that the operation was succeeding in limiting the supply of weapons to the illegal gun market.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent and gun-related crime in the world, and has taken a lead in efforts to curb the trade in illegal weapons across southern Africa.

"Ten to 11 years ago you could easily buy an AK47 at the border for less than 100 rand. Currently I am sure you will pay over 20,000 to 30,000 rand in the streets of South Africa," Lamoer told Reuters.

"The demand is still there but the supply is not," he added.

Von: 20 October 2005

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