We often hear of the human cost of war. We don’t often see the cash cost laid out so baldly as in the price list that went with my colleague Abdi Sheikh’s feature from Mogadishu on the arms market that thrives in the city amid Somalia’s tragedy.Among popular weapons, a 120 mm mortar costs $700, plus $55 for each mortar bomb. A 23 mm anti-aircraft gun (truck mounted), fetches a hefty $20,000.Pistols range from $400 to $1,000 according to condition and country of origin. An Indian-made AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle costs $140. Better quality versions from North Korea cost $600 and the Russian original costs $400. Hand-grenades go for $25 each, landmines $100.Huge weapons systems, such as nuclear missiles, are the stuff of international geopolitics. But in Africa at least, the weapons that are killing people on a daily basis in places like Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur are more modest in scale and can be bought at a relatively low cost.
Four months later the Briton was killed by al Qaeda’s North African wing, which had been demanding the release of Abu Qatada, a Jordanian Islamist being held in Britain.
The scandal engulfing British members of parliament over their often startling expenses claims has started to bring down some prominent victims: the speaker of the House of Commons, two Labour Party MPs and four from the Conservatives at time of writing.
The Daily Telegraph, which obtained a disk containing unexpurgated details of claims for moat dredging, floating duck houses, plasma screen televisions and reimbursement for mortgages long paid off, is now on Day 19 of its unremittingly lurid revelations.
For days now Britons have been regaled with newspaper stories detailing the dubious expense claims of their Members of Parliament.
The Honourable Members, it seems, have been charging for everything from a few thousand pounds for clearing a moat to a few pence for a new bath plug. An outraged nation has risen almost as one to denounce its greedy lawmakers.