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Police arrest aid workers for possessing wooden rifles

12 June 2015, 18:24

Nairobi - Three members of a British charity in possession of fake wooden rifles for use in a safety training exercise have been charged in Kenya with firearms offences, the charity said Friday.

Stuart Donaldson, a retired British policeman, and his Kenyan colleagues Jesse Kinyua and Aden Abdilahi, working for the London-based International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), were released on bail Friday after spending four days in detention.

"This is clearly just a breakdown of communication," said Nic Lee, the charity's executive director. "No crime has been committed here and we are cooperating fully with the Kenyan authorities to clear up this misunderstanding."

The three were arrested when they went to inform police that their training exercise -- held in the town of Gilgil since 2007 -- would be held in a different location with more space.

"We wanted to make the police aware of the change of venue before we started," said Lee, adding that his colleagues went to police "to request permission and invite them to attend the training."

Instead they were arrested and a box of pretend wooden guns seized as evidence.

INSO offers free courses in what it terms Hostile Environment Individual Safety Training (HEIST) for aid workers operating in potentially dangerous places such as Somalia.

The training includes simulated ambushes and checkpoint negotiations in which the wooden rifles are used.

"At no point were any of the wooden cutouts used, or attempted to be used, in any criminal activity whatsoever," said Lee.

Donaldson and Kinyua, the trainers, and Abdilahi, a driver, will appear in court in August.

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