An arms inspection at a military barracks in Cali, Colombia, has found 500 weapons missing out of 1,000 counted, with another 15,000 still to be checked, as a major investigation into weapons trafficking between security forces and criminal groups begins.
The inventory check at the barracks of the Colombian Army's Third Brigade, where weapons recovered by security forces in the country's third-largest city are stored, is being carried out by the country's Prosecutor General's Office. There are fears that thousands of weapons could be unaccounted for.
The majority of the missing weapons -- among them 44 rifles -- are believed to have gone back into circulation among criminal groups, reported Semana.
The investigation began following the capture of a woman in August 2013 who had seven pistols in her possession, said the magazine. When a scandal erupted in October over the disappearance of arms from the Third Brigade, garrison commander General Luis Fernando Rojas announced the investigation would be carried out by the Prosecutor General's Office to guarantee transparency. In mid-December, the investigation led to the arrest of four people -- including one retired and two serving military officials.
InSight Crime Analysis
The sale of weapons by corrupt security force members is a common feature of arms trafficking. In recent years, examples of both theft from security service storage facilities and security personnel involvement have been noted throughout the region, including in Uruguay, Bolivia and El Salvador. InSight Crime investigators have witnessed first-hand the sale of weapons to rebel groups by security forces on two separate occasions in Colombia.
SEE ALSO: Arms Trafficking Coverage
Cali appears to be something of an arms trafficking hotspot, with reports of arms from China flowing into the city via the nearby port of Buenaventura noted in recent years. In 2009, more than 4,000 firearms were recovered in the city and almost 2,000 more in the surrounding municipalities. While the city's criminal groups are undoubtedly responsible for much of this, rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maintain a significant presence in the surrounding rural area.
The flow of weapons in Cali has aided a conflict among criminals which has seen the city become the most violent in Colombia, although this may change following a pact among the city's warring criminal groups. The murder rate fell significantly during the last two months of the year, with December murders dropping to a ten-year low, reported El Pais.