Facebook has apparently become a giant online supermarket for weapons, especially for militants

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If you want to buy an AK-47, anti-tank rocket launchers, grenades, or mobile anti-aircraft missiles and you live in Libya, Iraq, Syria, or other areas with a heavy Islamic State presence, look no further than Facebook, The New York Times reports, citing its own research and a recent study by the Armament Research Services, a private consultancy. Across the Middle East, Facebook "has been hosting sprawling online arms bazaars" in private and secret groups, says C.J. Chivers at The Times, and because Facebook has barred the private sale of weapons on its site since January, the social media giant shut down six of the seven groups the newspaper brought to its attention.

"It is not clear how extensive arms trafficking on the site has been, but the rate of new posts has been unmistakably brisk, with many groups offering several new weapons a day," The Times reports, with ARES documenting 6,000 trades across the region, including up to 300 arms sales posts a month in Libya alone. Handguns for personal protection are the popular item in Libya, explains ARES director Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, who helped write the report. In Syria and Iraq, many of the arms up for sale obviously were provided to security services by the U.S. military, then either stolen or sold for cash.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.