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Monday, 9 January 2012

Kabul closes Canadian security company for gun smuggling


KABUL - The Afghan government has shut down the operations of one of the largest foreign security companies operating in the country after detaining two of its contractors on suspicion of gun smuggling. After months of growing tensions between the government and foreign security contractors, the decision marks a sharp escalation into public action by the Afghan authorities. The Afghan Interior Ministry said it was immediately withdrawing the company’s licence, although the company, GardaWorld, a private Canadian security outfit, said it was in discussions with the government and hoped to be able to continue to operate.
The ministry said the contractors, two Britons, who were detained on Tuesday after being found with an arsenal of unlicenced Kalashnikov assault rifles in their sport utility vehicle, were among the 341 Afghan guards and 35 foreign contractors employed by GardaWorld in Afghanistan. At a news conference in Kabul, the authorities put on display the two Britons as well two Afghans who were detained, their driver and their interpreter. Seddiq Seddiqi, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said the rifles had been found wrapped in blankets inside a metal box in the trunk of the vehicle. The rifles, which the government said had their serial numbers scratched off, were also shown to reporters at the news conference. In a statement, GardaWorld said that it did not yet own the weapons and that its guards were taking them to a rifle range for testing.
“The weapons in question were being taken to be tested at a firing range before being purchased and properly licenced by GardaWorld,” the company said, adding that in its discussions with the government it hoped to clear up what it implied was a misunderstanding and “rectify the situation as soon as possible”. The ministry said the company had contracts to work in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar and two other cities, and that GardaWorld was one of 46 security companies licenced to operate in Afghanistan until March 2012.