Like many of his colleagues, Abu Zaid was issued an Austrian-made Glock pistol when he joined the new U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi police force.
But after narrowly escaping death twice, including being shot at near a polling station in Baghdad during national elections in December 2005, he decided to quit, he said.
“I sold my Glock pistol and my bullet-proof vest for $1,500 (763 pounds) so that I can feed my family until I find a safer job. They were mine to sell, after all I had risked my life and faced death,” he told Reuters.
Anecdotal evidence, including interviews with arms dealers, suggests that Abu Zaid is just one of many policemen selling the highly prized pistol on the black market, already a shopper’s delight for buyers with enough cash.
A 2006 report by the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think tank, said the flow of weapons from the Iraqi forces to the black market and into the hands of militants had left U.S. commanders facing a dilemma.
“Iraqi police and soldiers seize weapons in routine raids and then sell them to weapons dealers,” said Abu Najim, 45, who says he has been an arms dealer for more than 20 years.
“Some policemen also come to me and offer to sell their Glocks, claiming they have some problems and urgently need money. But my customers avoid buying them. It could bring them big problems if U.S. or Iraqi soldiers find them with them.”
Adil al-Qaisi has a secondhand store attached to his home in Baghdad which he uses as a cover for his real business — selling guns. A visit to his shop revealed AK-47s, grenades, ammunition and police-issue body armour hidden in old fridges.
“I bought this from a police officer who quit the police commandos,” he said, picking up a blue flak jacket.
“I have frequent visits from policemen wanting to sell their Glocks, too, but it’s too risky. If security caught me with them they would call me a terrorist.”