Two local residents of Seattle, Washington are facing weapons trafficking charges after authorities intercepted them attempting to smuggle guns into Turkey. According to reports, the men were going to smuggle the guns over the Turkish border and into the hands of Kurdish fighters in Iraq. Paul Brunt (51) and Rawnd Khaleel Aldalawi (29 and an Iraq native who is now a Seattle resident) were indicted by a grand jury on the 1st of Feb. 2018. According to the prosecution, the firearms were purchased by Brunt and then, with the aid of Aldalawi, hid the guns in the paneling of vehicles that were being shipped to the middle east.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, the initial shipment was done in Feb. 2017 and contained 3 separate vehicles with 30 firearms concealed within their interiors. The second shipment which took place in Nov. 2017 had 47 firearms hidden between two vehicles. Finally, the last shipment was discovered upon its arrival in Turkey. Turkish customs seized the shipment and promptly contacted U.S. authorities which initiated the investigation.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, but it is interesting to see one of the origins that the miscellaneous modern guns floating around Iraq have come from. While firearms are incredibly common in Iraq and Kurdistan, new guns on the market and in the hands of soldiers have usually entered the region through smuggling. Aside from the limited shipments from coalition forces to the respective militaries, no firearms are permitted entry into Iraq. This only leaves the method of smuggling on the table for the acquisition of new weapons; judging from an on the ground assessment of on-hand guns, it is a method employed frequently.
These smuggling routes and processes are often set up by locals via bribes and established networks within the destined countries. However, they must rely on a local source inside the country of weapon origin to work efficiently. In this case it appears the Iraqi national had set up a partnership with a local asset to make the process function correctly (up until it didn’t). Aldalawi appears to have been avoiding profiling by using a native U.S. resident (Brunt) to complete the purchases of the guns. While the idea is startling that commercially U.S. produced firearms are being smuggled out of country, this is a rare and highly ambitious occurrence.
Featured image: A Iraqi special forces fighter walks with his rifle during fighting with Islamic State militants in eastern Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)