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20.4.2021 : 9:47 : +0200

Focus on Libya and North Africa: Ammunition and armed groups

New Security Assessment in North Africa report and podcast

A new Small Arms Survey Working PaperThe Headstamp Trail: An Assessment of Small-calibre Ammunition Found in Libya provides an analysis of 65 different small-calibre cartridge headstamps (ammunition identification markings) documented in Libya. 

The assessment is based on photos of cartridge headstamps, cartridges, and ammunition packaging, as well as shipping documents pertaining to small arms ammunition transfers. Most of these records are from Tripoli and were gathered during the first five months of 2012, with additional photos from Ajdabiya, Benghazi, and Misrata. This baseline will serve as a valuable tool for governments, NGOs, and other actors involved in understanding and stemming the illicit flow of small arms ammunition in the region.

The Headstamp Trail forms part of the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa, a multi-year project to support those engaged in building a more secure environment in North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region. The project produces timely, evidence-based research and analysis on the availability and circulation of small arms, the dynamics of emerging armed groups, and related insecurity. The project website ( provides a portal to the project findings, as well as other relevant resources on small arms in Libya and North Africa from the Small Arms Survey and other sources.

In a new Small Arms Survey podcast, titled ‘In Transition: Armed Groups in Libya’, research consultants Brian McQuinn and Peter Cole explain the role of the Security Assessment in North Africa project and their work in post-revolution Libya. They discuss local and regional armed groups (including Libya's revolutionary brigades), the role such groups play in the country’s state-building process, and the importance of developing a clearer understanding of the groups’ dynamics.

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