January 6, 2012
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Afghan authorities have announced the arrest of two British citizens who were found carrying 30 unregistered weapons without proper documentation. The two Britons, who have been identified as Julian Steele and James Davis, were stopped by Afghan police on Tuesday, January 3, at a checkpoint in the eastern suburbs of Afghan capital Kabul. The city’s police chief, Ayub Salangi, told the BBC that the two were arrested along with their Afghan interpreter and a local driver, after authorities discovered two metal boxes containing 30 AK-47s hidden under a blanket in their car. Moreover, most of the weapons had their serial numbers erased, and Steele and Davis were unable to produce registration documentation for the guns when asked to do so. When pressured, they told Afghan police that they worked for GardaWorld, an international security-consulting firm based in Montreal, Canada, with offices in the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates. GardaWorld, which is known to be currently active in Iraq, Pakistan, Haiti and Yemen, is thought to employ approximately 330 ‘bodyguards’ in Afghanistan, including around 30 foreign citizens. Strangely, however, GardaWorld, like every other private security firm operating in Afghanistan, is required by law to acquire all of its weapons from Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, private security companies active in Afghanistan are not allowed to handle weapons without serial numbers, which is usually considered evidence of a black market connection. The two British citizens told Afghan authorities that they were in the process of taking the weapons to a shooting range in order to test them, prior to purchasing them on behalf of GardaWorld, and that they had not yet had a chance to check for serial numbers. The Canadian company has denied any involvement in weapons smuggling and has described the incident as a misunderstanding. But the Afghan government has responded by withdrawing GardaWorld’s license to operate in Afghanistan, and ordering the company to immediately terminate all its operations in the country. Meanwhile, officials at the British embassy in Kabul say they are in touch with Steele and Davis and are providing them with consular support.