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Envoy visits AK-47 accused in Kabul

A senior UK diplomat has visited two British private security contractors arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of smuggling AK-47 assault rifles.

Local police detained the men, named as Julian Steele and James Davis, along with two Afghan colleagues in the capital Kabul on Tuesday.

Afghan officials said they were found to be transporting 30 AK-47s with their serial numbers scratched off and did not have the necessary firearms permits.

The case has been sent to Afghanistan's attorney-general for further investigation.

Private security firm GardaWorld, which employs the four people under arrest, said the men were taking the guns to a firing range for testing before they purchased and properly licensed them.

The Canada-based company said in a statement: "We fully comply with all laws and regulations in our Afghanistan operations and are making every effort to work closely with the Afghan authorities to rectify the situation as soon as possible."

The British Embassy in Kabul is liaising with the Afghan authorities and the UK vice-consul has visited the arrested Britons.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The two British nationals arrested by Afghan police in Kabul on January 3 remain in detention pending further investigation.

"We understand that their company, GardaWorld, are co-operating with the Afghan authorities and hope that the situation will be rectified soon. Our priority is of course the welfare of the British nationals. Our vice-consul has visited the men and we continue to provide consular assistance."

This is the latest in a series of disputes between security contractors and the Afghan authorities. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has ordered all private protection firms to shut down this year, to be replaced by a government-run security service called the Afghan Public Protection Force.

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