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Illegal Weapons: No Smoking Guns

More criminals using automatic firearms, but police clueless as to how or where they come from

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

29 October 2017

Relevant contents

…"Most of the weapons in circulation seem to be from deserters from the armed forces, while weapons captured from the LTTE are also there," said a chief Inspector who tracks underworld gangs and illicit firearms. The officer, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said some deserters sell firearms to underworld gangs, while others become gang members.

Weapons are not cheap. According to police sources, the price of a T56 ranges from Rs 75,000 to well over Rs.100,000.

Tracing the origins of these weapons is almost impossible as their serial numbers are scrubbed out. Even if the firearm had been stolen from an armoury belonging to the state, it cannot be traced.

The army however, strongly disputes assertions that most sophisticated illicit firearms may have once belonged to it. Military spokesman, Major General Roshan Seneviratne, pointed out that soldiers are not allowed to take their service weapons home with them when they go on leave. He rejected the notion that those who go absent without official leave (AWOL) take their weapons.

But he admits there have been instances where weapons are missing from armories and while soldiers have been on duty.

Even the 2008 report into illicit firearms though, notes there is strong evidence linking deserters and the military to the proliferation of illicit weapons. "While police records do not systematically record whether an offender caught in possession of, or trying to supply, a military-type small arm is a deserter from the security forces, there is strong evidence to suggest that a large number of cases do involve deserters."

Police believe that the 30-year-long war was the main cause for the proliferation of illicit firearms. Firearms continue to be in circulation, said Deputy Inspector General of Police, Priyantha Jayakody, who has been engaged in combating organized criminal gangs for decades…

ID: N687

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