The number of weapons smuggled into Egypt across the Libyan border is on the increase, with thousands of weapons flooding into the country, security officials said on Monday. They said residents of southern Egypt, where extended families often accumulate large arsenals to protect property and settle feuds, are the main buyers.
It's a natural but worrying development for a country already witnessing a rising tide of insecurity, where security forces are either unwilling or unable to police effectively and thousands of criminals who escaped from prison during the revolt were never re-arrested.
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Automatic gunfire can be heard in the capital city, Cairo, on a nightly basis – something unthinkable prior to the uprising last year (although it's not always clear if the weapons are being used in violent crime).
Stockpiles of weapons have for years traversed Egypt's deserts to the Sinai Peninsula for transport to Gaza, but a negligible amount was left behind in Egypt. Disaffected Bedouin tribes on the Gaza border armed themselves for battles with police and other clans. The most intense weapon used was a rocket-propelled grenade.
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Security officials told AP that hundreds of "modern sniper rifles" were seized, but did not elaborate beyond that.
Egypt is no Iraq or Syria, but a proliferation in unregulated, black market arms can mean nothing but bad things for a nation where the future is all but certain.