ISLAMABAD – Pakistani police raided a local security firm contracted by the U.S. Embassy on Saturday, officials said, seizing dozens of allegedly unlicensed weapons at a time when American use of private contractors is under unusual scrutiny here.
Two employees of the Inter-Risk company were arrested, Islamabad police official Rana Akram told a news conference. Reporters were shown the disputed weapons — 61 assault rifles and nine pistols.
He said police were searching for the owner of the firm, which has been mentioned recently in local media reports that have been trying to establish the types of private security firms that American diplomats use in Pakistan.
In particular, Pakistani reporters, bloggers and others have suggested that the U.S. may be using the American firm formerly known as Blackwater, which was refused an operating license by Iraq's government early this year amid continued outrage over a lethal 2007 firefight involving some of its employees in Baghdad.
The U.S. Embassy denies it uses Blackwater — now known as Xe Services — in Pakistan, but the accusations have been part of a deepening sense of anti-Americanism in a country where that feeling is already pervasive.
Much of it hinges on U.S. plans to expand its embassy, adding hundreds more staff and more land in what it says is a move to allow it to disburse billions of dollars more in humanitarian aid to Pakistan.
Akram said police are investigating whether any other private security firms are using illegal weapons.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Rick Snelsire confirmed that the embassy signed a contract with Inter-Risk last year and that it took effect at the start of 2009. It is believed to be the first contract the local firm has signed with the U.S., said Snelsire, who did not have a figure for the contract's worth.
"Our understanding is they obtained licenses with whatever they brought into the country to meet the contractual needs," Snelsire said. "We told the government that we had a contract with Inter-Risk, that Inter-Risk would be providing security at the embassy and our consulates."