Arms-Trade Data Sharing: The Itinerant Fabrique-Nationale FAL Rifle (and Associated Cartridges).
Further to our intention to encourage other researchers to share data, and to help colleagues in their research, here is another batch of images, this time related to the FN FAL rifles in Syria.
FAL = Fusil Automatique Leger, or light automatic rifle, the name FN gave to one of Europe’s more successful small-arms patterns, which in this case was chambered for the 7.62x51 NATO round.
These images were requested by Damien Spleeters, who investigates the Belgian arms trade. Belgium’s arms trade, and the travels of FN’s rifles, could provide a case study in the effects and workings of the often invisible global trade in military arms - a line of inquiry that would benefit greatly if Belgium were to open its archives of export data and release any and all serialized lists of military small-arms exports.
Belgium is a European state. Its politicians and bureaucrats often speak of European values. No doubt the small-arms exports it approved over the past decades were made with end-user certificates. But the evidence from recent conflicts — where the FN FAL has turned up repeatedly amid widespread talk among their new handlers that they had been smuggled into the conflict area — suggests that many Belgian small arms have been reexported by clients who assured Belgium that they would not do exactly that.
Were the serial numbers visible on the rifles above part of a batch of rifles legally exported to Syria, and then captured in Syria by rebels? Or were they exported from Belgium to another nation, which then passed them along? It would be illuminating to know. A conscientious and modern state could demonstrate the curiosity to ask itself where its weapons turn up, especially if its weapons were a common tool of modern war. Belgium has a chance to lead down this path.
Also above, images of ammunition rebels use with their FN FALs. Note the batch without head stamps. Note as well that rebels are in some cases using .308 ammunition where they would be better served by 7.62x51 NATO ball. Also note the DIY pipe grenades atop the ammunition crate. Memo to self: Insurgencies ever look the same.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS.
From Idlib Governorate, Syria. By the author. Last month.
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