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Soldiers Conspire with Underworld - Def. Min.

costas papacostasA number of lower-ranking national guardsmen are in cahoots with mafia gangs and plotted to steal weapons from army camps, said Minister of Defense Costas Papacostas.

Commenting on last month's theft of 172kg of PG-2 high explosives from Palodia army camp, Papacostas admitted with "pain in my soul" that he has evidence that members of the national guard are conspiring with the underworld.

"This is very serious and has preoccupied me for a long time," said Papacostas.

He added that it is a case of a few bad apples, and that the majority of the national guard are responsible and carry out their duties properly. Earlier, eight suspects in connection with July's explosives theft were arrested and four out of the eight were remanded by Limassol District Court. The court also renewed another remand order for two national guards, 34 and 35, who were arrested on July 28th.

On Monday, police said they had found 79 kilos of the 172 kilos stolen, which were hidden in barrels in a field in an area between Vasa, Kilani and Omodhos villages. The remaining amount of explosives are still missing.

The explosives, which are used to penetrate the toughest materials like steel and other metals, were taken from Palodia army camp store room sometime between July 17th and 21st, said police. Authorities are also investigating a second case of weapons theft from an army camp in Nicosia after a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher (RPG) was stolen from a storeroom in Nicosia. The commander of the camp has been suspended, said the ministry.

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