Two Britons held in Kabul carrying 30 assault rifles

Two British men and their Afghan driver and interpreter – all of whom work for a private security company – have been arrested in Kabul for carrying illegal weapons.

Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said the four were detained on Tuesday morning. Police stopped and searched the car and discovered 30 Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, and ammunition. Officers asked the men for registration documents for the weapons but they were unable to provide them.

The police have conducted a preliminary investigation into the four men, Mr Sediqi said. Part of the probe was into whether the weapons had had their serial numbers removed. The case will be handed over to the Attorney-General's Office for further investigation.

Mr Sediqi said details of the men's names and the company they work for would be released when the case was passed to the Attorney-General.

Dozens of private security firms began operating in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban 10 years ago, providing protection to businesses, aid groups and government agencies. They have generated resentment among the Afghan public, particularly for the heavy-handed manner in which some employees conduct themselves.

President Hamid Karzai has said that the companies hinder the development of the Afghan security forces. In March 2010, he ordered that they should be closed by that year's end, but this was later postponed until March 2012.

Fifty-seven private security companies have already been dissolved and their property, including 3,200 weapons and 35 vehicles, appropriated by the interior ministry, Mr Sediqi said. Of the remaining firms, 23 are Afghan and 23 are foreign-owned.