Kalashnikov demand soars with violence in NW Pakistan

PESHAWAR, July 22, 2009 (AFP) – The price of a Kalashnikov assault rifle is soaring as militant groups and private militias mushroom in an increasingly battle-torn northwest Pakistan, arms dealers and buyers say.

Civilians too, frightened by the upsurge in violence and citing a lack of government protection, are also forking out to arm themselves with a weapon that has come to symbolise violent struggle the world over.

Easy to use, hard to jam and the preferred killing machine of guerrillas, security forces and terror merchants, the humble Kalashnikov has never been more highly prized in the wilds of Pakistan.

As a result, in the northwest capital Peshawar, and Darra Adam Khel, outside government control in the tribal belt on the Afghan border, prices have jumped as much as five times in a year, to up to 1,500 dollars (125,000 rupees).

“You see there is war in the tribal areas. The Taliban need this weapon and tribesmen need this weapon against Taliban,” said Habib Khan, a Peshawar arms dealer.

The military is currently engaged in a major offensive in the northwest against Taliban amid fears in Islamabad and ally Washington that the militants were gaining increasing influence and ground in