* Deadly shootings rife in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua
* Gun violence threatens stability of former war zones
* Report urges more monitoring of light weaponry, ammunition
GENEVA, July 9 (Reuters) - Some Central American countries are experiencing more gun killings now than during their civil wars and face serious security threats from firearms in civilian hands, the Small Arms Survey report released on Thursday showed.
Armed robberies, extortions, kidnappings for ransom, organised riots and community violence threaten to destabilise post-conflict nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa where fighting has officially stopped, the annual publication said.
“Even a small number of arms can undermine security gains,” said 344-page report from a Geneva university, with backing from Western governments, urging closer monitoring of military stockpiles and the borders across which arms are traded.
“One group of countries that emerged from war, such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, continue to exhibit stable or rising rates of homicidal violence -- sometimes equivalent to peak periods of armed conflict,” the study found, referring to civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Afghanistan is among countries where violent crime among civilians is occurring next to mainstream conflict, and street shootings are also highly problematic in Brazil and Colombia, according to the report, which called on governments to do more to keep track of light weaponry and ammunition.
The study, subtitled “Shadows Of War” this year, reported troubling trends in the Aceh region of Indonesia, where it said soldier reintegration efforts have fallen short.
“The year 2008 saw a rise in localised violent conflict, often involving former combatants,” the report said, raising questions about the viability of a 2005 peace deal. “There are concerns that the peace is more fragile than some suspect.”
But Mozambique, Peru and Sierra Leone “appear to have more successfully transitioned into periods marked by greater personal security for the civilian population”.
Successes have hinged on efforts to prevent the seizure of weapons from military stockpiles, clamp down on corruption, and tackle cross-border arms trafficking as well as smuggling such as the transfer of U.S.-bought handguns into Mexico.
“Controlling arms flows and stockpiles will remain a priority for many post-war societies,” the report concluded.
Global authorised trade in light weapons such as handguns was worth $1.58 billion in 2006, some 28 percent more than 2000, according to the report from Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
The total value exceeds $4 billion a year when undocumented sales are included, the survey said, identifying Iran, North Korea, South Africa, Russia, Israel and Taiwan as the least transparent exporters.
The United States was named the world's top importer of pistols, revolvers, sporting shotguns and related accessories, as well as the biggest exporter. Major U.S. gun manufacturers include Smith & Wesson SWHC.O and Sturm Ruger RGR.N.
Other top sellers include Italy, Germany, Brazil, Austria and Belgium, while leading importers after the United States were France, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Australia.
“Greater demand for small arms in the United States was responsible for 48 percent of the worldwide increase in imports from 2000 to 2006,” the report said, saying that while China and Russia are also thought to be prolific sellers, their official customs data does not reflect this. (Editing by Louise Ireland and Stephanie Nebehay)
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