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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Italy seizes 'US-bound' arms haul
By Francis Kennedy
BBC correspondent in Rome

Police in southern Italy say they have seized a large illegal arms shipment from Romania destined for the US.

Customs officers in the port of Gioia Tauro, in Calabria, discovered 7,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles after noting irregularities in the documentation.

The cargo, estimated to be worth some 6m euros (3.9m, $7.15m), was declared as arms for civilian, not military, use.

The weapons were discovered on board a ship flying a Turkish flag that had departed from a port in Romania.

An Italian finance police officer stands in a container where thousands of weapons were found
The guns were said to be heading for the US
Italian customs police say the ship was bound for New York.

The cargo was searched because of discrepancies between the customs declaration, which said the rifles were for civilian use, and the weapons themselves.

The load included accessories - bayonets and reloading devices - and has now been confiscated.

The receiver of the cargo is an American company.

Although some states allow the purchase of Kalashnikov rifles by collectors, the sheer number of the guns has prompted a judicial inquiry into whether they were in fact destined for military use.

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