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The Bakaara Market (Somali language: Suuqa Bakaaraha ) is an open market in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the largest in the nation. The name Bakaaraha derives from the Somali word for grain silo or storage, baqaar.

Bakaara Market in the heart of Mogadishu. Due to the fragility of the government, Somali marketplaces have thrived.

The market was created in late 1972 during the reign of Mohamed Siad Barre. Proprietors sold and still sell daily essentials (including staples such as maize, sorghum, beans, peanuts, sesame, wheat and rice, petrol and medicine), but it also largely expanded during the civil war and has become notoriously known as a market of small arms and all kinds of weapons, including rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), mortars (80mm and 120mm), 23mm and 30mm antiaircraft guns, and ammunition of all types. It was known as the largest market of weapons in the continent.

It is also famous for other illicit activities, such as forged Somali passports processed within minutes, including Ethiopian and Kenyan passports, and other forged documents, including but not limited to birth certificates and university diplomas. This illicit sub-market is famously known as Cabdalle Shideeye, named after one of its first proprietors.

The Bakaara Market is a focus of ongoing arms control efforts for the disarmament in Somalia, and has caught fire a few times in recent years.[1][2][3]

Gunfire is commonly heard, as shoppers fire weapons into the air to test them before purchase, hence giving the sub-gun market the nickname cirtoogte (sky shooter). Anti-aircraft guns and mortars are tested at a further distance from the market. In 2001, a rough estimate by aid agencies placed the number of assault rifles in Mogadishu at somewhere near 1 million, for a city population of 1.5 million.[4]

Battle of Mogadishu[]

In October 1993, the market was the site of the Battle of Mogadishu or The Battle of the Black Sea. One of the two Black Hawk helicopters were downed in the area, which led to a fierce firefight that lasted for the entire night.

Violence, Fires, Counterfeit Currency[]

In 1997, a dispute arose over the control of the collection of taxes in the market. As a result of the confrontation, an RPG was fired into a fuel tank (which are above ground in the market, not stored underground). Several civilians were injured.[5]

In March 1999 hundreds fled the market after fighting erupted. Fighting continued between Islamic Courts and secular militias through April.[6]

On January 26, 2000, the market was the site of the shooting of Ahmed Kafi Awale, a radio commentator for Hussein Mohamed Aidid's Radio of the Somali People. Awale was there covering the market. Three others were killed and seven badly injured.[citation needed]

On January 5, 2001, a fire broke out in the market, caused by two fighting militias. The vegetable section of the market was destroyed, as was part of the milk section. Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militia forces broke up the fighting.[7]

In February 2001, an influx of counterfeit currency led to the shutting of the market for a time. The Somali shilling collapsed. Traders only accepted US$ for a time. Not only the cost of arms were affected—the cost of food and essentials doubled during the crisis.[8][9]

On April 10, 2004, another fire broke out in the market. According to a report to the UN Security Council:

On the night of 10 April [2004], a serious fire in the main Bakaara market in Mogadishu resulted in at least eight people killed and more than 30 wounded. Armed looters shot indiscriminately into the crowd. The incident caused widespread insecurity in the areas surrounding the market.[10]

On October 2, 2007, another raging fire started in the market, spreading rapidly. The fire reportedly was caused by a fired shell during a brief fight between the terrorist forces against Ethiopian peacekeepers and their allied transitional government forces nearby.[citation needed]

On October 15, 2009,[11] Al-Shabab insurgents shelled the Bakara Market with mortars, killing 20 people and wounding 58.

On May 1, 2010, two bombs detonated at a mosque near the market, killing 39 people and wounding 70.[12]

On May 12, 2011 AMISOM and TFG launched an offensive towards the market to clear out Al-Shabaab.

On May 14, 2011 heavy shelling hit the market resulting in at least 14 civilian casualties. Most of the civilians killed were women doing their shopping, one child was also among those killed.[13]

In November 2012, the head of Bakara’s business community, businessman Ahmed Nure Awdiini, was shot dead at point-blank range outside his office in Mogadishu.[14]

Security Checkpoints[]

The security checkpoint for the market was controlled for a long while by Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, a Mogadishu warlord who was appointed Minister of National Security by the Transitional Federal Government. The checkpoints for the market were to be taken down in June 2005 as part of the Green Leaf for Democracy (GLED) initiative of a "Global Week against Small Arms."[15]

Recent Activities[]

The arms trading in the Bakaara Market was closed by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) after they took control of the capital following the Second Battle of Mogadishu.

A fire broke out December 6, 2006, beginning at a charcoal storage facility and then spreading to nearby shops.[16]

On December 11, the Islamists announced they planned to impose a tax on the market to raise funds for their movement.[17] Before they could effect their plans, the ICU left the capital. On December 28, 2006, the market closed during the uncertainty of the Fall of Mogadishu.[18]

Arms tradings recently re-opened with the ousting of the ICU by the Transitional Federal Government. However, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has ordered a disarmament of the populace, calling the future of the Bakaara Market into question.[19]

A particular worry are the reports that children, armed with AK-47's and whips, are being used by the militant group al-Shabab as a method of enforcing their interpretation of Sharia law on the populace.[20]

In March 2013 two survivors from Task Force Ranger returned to Mogadishu with a film crew to shoot a short film Return to Mogadishu: Remembering Black Hawk Down which debuted in October 2013 on the 20th anniversary of the battle. Author Jeff Struecker and country singer Keni Thomas relived the battle as they drove through the Bakaara Market in armored vehicles and visited the Wolcott crash site.


  1. Local Business, Local Peace: the Peacebuilding Potential of the Domestic Private Sector: Case Study, Somalia International Alert
  2. "Things to Do in Mogadishu". Archived from the original on 2007-06-16. Retrieved 3 September 3012. 
  3. After Years of Chaos, Somalia Is Open for Business
  4. Feature: Somalia Moaning in Gunfire Xinhua
  5. Horn of Africa Monthly Review 1-31 May 1997 UNDP
  6. World: Africa Mogadishu market clash BBC
  7. Horn of Africa: IRIN Update, 10 January SOMALIA: Fire in Bakaara market, IRIN
  8. Horn of Africa: IRIN Update, 12 February IRIN
  9. Fake Somali Banknotes Flood into Mogadishu Xinhua
  10. Local Business, Local Peace: the Peacebuilding Potential of the Domestic Private Sector: Case Study, Somalia International Alert
  11. Somalia: Mortar shell kills two in Mogadishu
  12. BBC News - Somali blasts kill 'at least 30 at militants mosque'
  13. Somalia shelling kills 14 civilians at market
  14. "Somali Mogadishu businessman Ahmed Nure Awdiini killed". BBC News. 2012. 
  15. Global Week of Action Against Small Arms Somalia 2005 Somaliweyn
  16. Somalia: Fire destroys main Bakara Market in the capital SomaliNet
  17. Aweys Osman Yusuf (December 11, 2006). "Somalia’s Islamists begin collecting taxes in Mogadishu’s markets". Shabelle Media Network. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 3 September 3012. 
  18. Islamists Abandon Somalia's Capital Associated Press
  19. Everyone in Somalia's capital has a gun — everyone, that is, but the police Associated Press, January 3, 2006
  20. Alarm over Somalia's child soldiers BBC News 29 July 2009

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