Blair guards bought rocket launchers for Gaza trip

Saturday, December 4, 2010

LONDON - Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair’s security guards are facing probe over claims that they bought a device for launching rockets or grenade to protect him during his visit to Gaza.

Two members of the elite Scotland Yard unit are the subject of an official probe by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Daily Mail reported Saturday.

Watchdog officials want to know why the officers took it upon themselves to purchase the weapon, apparently on expenses, for the former prime minister’s trip to Gaza.

Blair is currently the UN’s Middle East envoy. Any trip by him to Gaza carries huge risks. The pair claim it was not bought as a weapon, but was intended to fire “smoke bombs” to thwart any attack on Blair.

Blair made his first visit to Gaza March 1 last year, nearly two years after he was appointed special representative for the UN, EU, Russia and the US.

On that day, Blair travelled only a few hundred yards across the Israel-Gaza border. He stayed for a couple of hours, speaking to local residents and visiting a UN-operated school, before leaving for a high-profile conference in Egypt.

Blair spends about one week each month in Jerusalem, where he has a staff of 12 working from the five-star American Colony Hotel.

British government spends 250,000 pounds a year for the former premier’s 24-hour six-man security detail of detectives.

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