In Europe in 2015 more attacks were carried out with Kalashnikov-type assault rifles than any other device. Investigators are trying figure out why – and how In the early years after 9/11 the suicide belt, the car bomb and the homemade explosive device were the weapons of choice for jihadis: hidden, brutal and hard to counter.
But as 2015 heaves to a close, its atrocities littered across the calendar – Charlie Hebdo, Sousse, Garissa, Tunis, Copenhagen and Paris – it is the AK-47 that has come to the fore.People could already Buy AK-47 Pistols online
Across Europe more terrorist attacks have been carried out with Kalashnikov-type assault rifles this year than with any other device. In the 13 November Paris attacks, suicide bombers killed few but gunmen killed many. Further afield, in Tunisia and Kenya, it was also automatic weapons that did the damage.
The widespread availability of these guns has been known for years. But it took the scale of death meted out in Paris last month to force Europe to address the threat.
Now law enforcement officers across the continent are trying to establish some basic truths. Where do they come from? Who are the middlemen that deal in these deadly weapons? And why have they become so popular again?AK-47 Firearms for sale
The Balkan connection
Part of the answer can be found in a small cottage in the Balkan hinterland, beneath the mountains of central Montenegro. In one of two bare rooms, Zeljko Vucelic draws hard on a cigarette.
This is a poor place. Mould grows on the walls, damp seeps up from the floor, and the only possessions on show are an old TV, a cooker and a fridge.
The family has just about made ends meet for generations. But now Vucelic is facing the realisation that his brother, Vlatko, had been trying to make a little money on the side – as a bit-part player in the vast weapons trade.
“I haven’t been sleeping for nights. I’m trying to remember if there is anything to dig into, to grab and hold on to,” said Zeljko Vucelic.
On 5 November Vlatko Vucelic was stopped on a German motorway with a whole arsenal in the boot: a revolver, two handguns, two grenades, 200g of TNT. And eight Kalashnikovs.Where to Buy ak-47 rifles?
Police have not linked Vlatko to any terror plot. But they do believe he was a cog, albeit a small one, in the illegal firearms trade, worth an estimated $320m (£210m) a year worldwide.
His journey, as detailed by the satnav, traced what experts believe is a well-worn route for weapons traffickers: Montenegro, through Croatia, Slovenia and on into Austria to a border crossing point into southern Germany near Rosenheim. The final destination was a car park in Paris.
When police use the word Kalashnikov to describe weapons they have seized, they are referring to a legendary brand that has had multiple reincarnations.
Designed by the Soviet general Mikhail Kalashnikov, the first model of the Kalashnikov gun, or AK-47, was introduced into active service in the Soviet army in 1948.
Today, however, the name applies to 200 types of AK-pattern assault rifles. According to Michael Hodges, author of AK47: The Story of the People’s Gun, there may be as many as 200m Kalashnikovs in the world, one for every 35 people.
They are manufactured – legitimately, for international trade – in more than 30 countries, with China leading the way.
But legal weapons can quickly become illicit contraband. China exports principally to African states. There, they can end up on the illicit market either because underpaid soldiers sell them on, or because states supply rebel forces in other countries.
Libya, with its own civil war to feed and a lawlessness unrivalled almost anywhere on the continent, has emerged as a huge funnel for the weapons.
A report by a UN panel of experts on the arms embargo on Libya has found that weapons have been illegally passed to 14 countries outside its borders, although no evidence of Libyan-sourced firearms in Europe has yet been acknowledged publicly. Most experts believe, however, it is only a matter of time before they are found within the European Union.