Sat, Jan 07, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Two Britons charged over weapons in Afghanistan

AFP, KABUL

Two British men arrested in Afghanistan with 30 AK-47 assault rifles have been charged with weapons smuggling, a government spokesman said on Thursday, but their employer denied the allegations.

The men, named as Julian Steele and James Davis, were paraded at a news conference which heard that they had been detained while driving through Kabul and had told police they were working for a private security company, Garda World.

“The detainees did not have any documentation for carrying weapons, so we have charged them with illegal smuggling of weapons and have handed them to the attorney general for further investigation, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. “The National Police hereby also announce the dissolution of this company, and based on the order of the interior minister, the head and other officials of this company will be summoned to give account.”

Garda World vice president Nathalie de Champlain, based in Montreal, denied the accusations. “The weapons were taken to be tested at a shooting range before being purchased by Garda World and properly licensed,” she said.

The company, which according to its Web site has offices in Canada, the US, the UK, Dubai and operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen, is cooperating with Afghan authorities to resolve the matter, she added.

Two Afghan nationals traveling with the men were also detained. They were also shown to the media along with the weapons, but all four men stood with their backs to reporters.

Afghanistan is home to thousands of foreign private security personnel who provide services to international forces, diplomatic missions and aid organizations.

However, relations with the authorities have deteriorated. Afghan President Hamid Karzai accuses the firms of breaking the law and taking business away from Afghans.

Perceptions that those working for security firms are little more than gun-toting mercenaries, roaming the countryside with impunity, have made them deeply unpopular among Afghans.

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