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Kalashnikov

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Original author: 
Khaled Abdullah

If you are looking for an AK-47, a sniper rifle or even an anti-aircraft gun, it takes only half-an-hour of shopping around in this arms market, one of Yemen's biggest weapons markets, to find one.

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Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital when Somalia was still a nation, is the poster city for what WikiTravel.org calls “the most lawless and dangerous city on Earth… Even with guards, the likelihood of being injured, kidnapped, and/or killed is still very high, including potentially by said hirable guards… Traffic drives on the right.” As far as I could tell, traffic went every which way—and yes, I grant you that Mogadishu’s walls are bullet-pocked in three sizes: thumb size for AK-47s, fist size for .20 caliber, and both fists for .50 caliber.

http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2012/winter/sleigh-florio-poor-zone/

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In the last week of June, at an airfield outside Moscow, Russia laid out a smorgasbord of military hardware—including everything from tanks to anti-aircraft batteries—and invited some of the most militaristic nations in the world do some pleasant summer shopping. Meat was grilled in barbecue pits, comely models stood around in mini-skirts, ’80s music and obnoxious techno pounded through the speakers, and once a day, a choreographer from the Bolshoi Theater staged a “tank ballet” of twirling war machines that was grandiloquently titled, “Unconquerable and Legendary.”

Welcome to the deceptively titled Forum for Technologies in Machine Building, the biennial Russian arms bazaar that President Vladimir Putin inaugurated in 2010. Delegations from Iran, Bahrain, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among many others, attended the expo this year, and spent their time ogling cruise missiles, climbing into armored jeeps and trying out the most famous—and most deadly—Russian weapon of them all: the Kalashnikov assault rifle, which is thought to hold the stomach-turning honor of having killed more people than any other weapon in the history of man.

On the afternoon of June 28, TIME followed around the delegation to the arms bazaar from Syria, who, like many of the participants, would not legally be able to buy their weapons in the West (the TIME magazine story is available to subscribers here). For the past 16 months, Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have brutally tried to crush a homegrown rebellion, which has already cost around 15,000 lives, including thousands of women and children. The U.S. and Europe have responded by banning weapons sales to Syria, and along with their allies in the Arab world, they have pushed for an international arms embargo against Assad’s government. But Russia, the world’s second largest arms dealer after the U.S., has used its veto power in the U.N. to block these sanctions. With around $4 billion in weapons contracts to fulfill for its Syrian clients, Russia has continued supplying arms to Damascus, which gets nearly all of its weapons from Russia.

It was impossible to tell what, if anything, the Syrians came to the Moscow arms bazaar to purchase. Such deals would be signed behind closed doors, and both sides declined to comment. Colonel Isam Ibrahim As’saadi, the military attache at the Syrian embassy in Moscow, chaperoned the three officials in town from Damascus, and they would only say that they came to Moscow especially to attend the fair. The items that seemed to interest them most that day were armored military vehicles, trucks equipped with roof-mounted rocket launchers and brand new Kalashnikov assault rifles. Andrei Vishnyakov, the head of marketing for Izhmash, the company that created the AK-47, spent more than an hour selling them on the virtues of the firm’s new sniper rifles and machine guns. Before handing the head of the Syrian delegation a silencer-equipped AK-104, Vishnyakov said: “This weapon is perfect for close-quarters combat, house to house.” The Syrian official then lifted the gun’s sight to his eye and pointed it across the crowded pavilion, no doubt wondering how useful it could be back home.

Simon Shuster is TIME’s Moscow reporter.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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In the mountains of northern Syria, the summer fruits ripened in the orchards. Farmers collected their crops, walking between olive groves, tomato patches and lush trees with a plum-like fruit they call ‘mish mish.’ It was a scene of serenity when I arrived over a week ago, surprising given the news that has streamed constantly out of Syria for the past year. Daily life must go on, my friend Mohamed said. “If you don’t work one day, maybe you won’t eat the next,” was his answer to a question on how the revolution and war affected civilians in Syria. Groups of armed Free Syrian Army fighters, many of them defectors from the military, manned check points and greeted civilians with warmth and familiarity. They knew how close the military was and how the government would not hesitate to use force, so they stayed on watch all the time, handling the meager weapons they had. AK-47s, RPGs, one tank and one 23 mm anti-aircraft gun, the latter two acquired in fights with the Syrian Army. This equipment was all they had to cover the string of more than 40 villages in the mountainous region outside of Idlib.

From our mountain top perch last Saturday, I watched the twinkling lights of the villages and towns below. And then the sickening thuds of incoming mortars erased any notion of serenity. Just 20 kilometers away, the Syrian Army was conducting its usual, almost nightly, attacks on the town of Maarat al Noman, a town of about 100,000 situated on the outskirts of Idlib City. I sat with my hosts as the word arrived about casualties. By 11 p.m., the estimated number of deaths hovered between 20 to 30—mostly the result of mortars.

We decided to go, but it would be no easy feat. The army was stationed at 13 checkpoints inside the city, as well as in the surrounding mountains and farmland. Some were as close as 4 km away. The only way to communicate with the inside was through FSA radios. After more than an hour of planning and coordination between FSA commanders, we were on our way, negotiating back roads and the lack of light. On the final stretch to the city was a Syrian Army check point, located on the top of a hill in what looked like a little house. “There, that’s the army, we’re in a dangerous area now,” Mohamed warned, but I wished he hadn’t told me. I could feel the tension in the car as Ibrahim, a shy FSA fighter who was driving, accelerated, and then I heard the crack of gunfire—four bursts. I waited for the sound of bullets hitting metal, and when it didn’t happen, a collective sigh of relief filled the car.

The shelling momentarily ceased. It was now 1 a.m. as we arrived at a mosque where locals had placed six of the dead in white sheets. The main hospital was under the control of the army, and there was no refrigeration or city morgue. The mortars had reduced the contents of the sheets to nothing but piles of civilian, human flesh—unrecognizable except for a single hand and one somewhat intact body.

I looked for a minute, began photographing, and then felt my stomach turn. The bodies were covered in chalk and large blocks of ice and water bottles were placed between the limbs. “They were just coming out of the mosque after evening prayers,” one local man screamed. “And that’s when the mortars killed them.” Even in the darkness of the mosque, streaks of blood could be seen, almost as if a giant red paint brush had been run across the floor.

In a house nearby, the women of a family were gathered in their living room reading passages from the Quran. They wept as they read, children sitting near them, bewildered. The body of Alaa Milhem, a 22-year-old French Literature student at the University of Aleppo, lay in the middle of the room, his white undershirt soaked with blood, light hair curled across his forehead. His mother bent over him, crying, sobbing, and at times wailing. “Why, why? Why?” She spoke tenderly in hushed tones to her dead son. The women around her began to cry harder, covering their faces with the Quran. Overcome with emotion, they struggled to read it any further.

All I could do was pause for a few minutes and watch. I felt my jaw clench—I could feel the pain in the room. There were no answers for his mother. Her son was studying for his final exams, heard the shelling, ran outside to help the injured, and was hit by another incoming round.

Nicole Tung is a freelance photographer who previously documented the uprisings in Libya and Egypt. See more of her work here.

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US and NATO forces continue to train the Afghan troops in advance of the handover of the country's security in 2014. The US-led war in Afghanistan has cost the lives of around 3,000 US and allied troops, seen thousands of Afghans killed and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. We check in on our soldiers for May (and a little bit of June 2012.) -- Paula Nelson (45 photos total)
A female US marine and members of USN Hospital Corpsman from the 1st battalion 7th Marines Regiment walk at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Jackson also known as Sabit Khadam in Sangin, Helmand Province, June 7, 2012. The US-led war in Afghanistan has cost the lives of around 3,000 U.S. and allied troops, seen thousands of Afghans killed and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. (Adek Berryakek Berry/AFP/GettyImages)

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Released when I was distracted by something that wasn’t the internet over the weekend, Deadly 30 is a side-scrolling game of zombie killing, home building and exploration. More killing than building, granted, but while each of the 30 days that must be survived allow for scavenging, and the discovery and recruitment of other survivors, the nights are given over to barricade building and defense, as the hordes of dead knock on the doors and windows, possibly asking to borrow some sugar or tea. Judging by the trailer below, there’s not a great deal of depth to the construction side of things so hopefully the exploration is a little more fleshed out. Fleshy enough for a zombie to feast on.

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