By Ahmed Rasheed and Ross Colvin
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Like many of his colleagues, Abu Zaid was issued an Austrian-made Glock pistol when he joined the new U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi police force.
But after narrowly escaping death twice, including being shot at near a polling station in Baghdad during national elections in December 2005, he decided to quit, he said.
"I sold my Glock pistol and my bullet-proof vest for $1,500 (763 pounds) so that I can feed my family until I find a safer job. They were mine to sell, after all I had risked my life and faced death," he told Reuters.
Anecdotal evidence, including interviews with arms dealers, suggests that Abu Zaid is just one of many policemen selling the highly prized pistol on the black market, already a shopper's delight for buyers with enough cash.
Everything from the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle, the biggest-selling item, to rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles and belt-fed medium machine guns are available, many looted from huge arms dumps immediately after the 2003 war.
The polymer-framed 9mm Glock, with a capacity of 15 rounds, is popular with police forces and armies around the world because of its ease of use and reliability. It is now also standard issue for Iraq's 325,000-strong security force.
A 2006 report by the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think tank, said the flow of weapons from the Iraqi forces to the black market and into the hands of militants had left U.S. commanders facing a dilemma. Continued...