MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities have withdrawn German assault rifles made by Heckler & Koch from parts of the country following allegations the weapons were used by local police to commit human rights abuses, a local newspaper reported on Monday.
Heckler & Koch came under pressure in May, when a report by German customs authorities found the company had sold guns to four Mexican states in violation of an export ban that sought to limit arms sales to corrupt police forces.
According to the Reforma newspaper, the defense ministry said it removed 3,758 Heckler & Koch weapons from Chihuahua, Chiapas, Guerrero and Jalisco states “to avoid finger-pointing toward the Mexican state by national and international organizations.”
However, the gun sales did not violate any Mexican laws, the newspaper reported, citing the defense ministry. The ministry was not immediately available for comment.
After details of the customs report emerged in Germany, privately held Heckler & Koch issued a statement saying it had been assisting investigators and had dismissed two of its staff.
Human rights activists have alleged some of the guns ended up in the southwestern city of Iguala, Guerrero, where 43 trainee teachers were abducted last September and almost certainly murdered by a drug gang working with corrupt police.
A cache of illegally imported weapons was found near to where the violence erupted in Iguala, but their origin was not made public, said a former state official familiar with the investigations, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The defense ministry said it plans to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 guns with light automatic weapons, without specifying their make, according to Reforma, citing a public information request.
Reporting by Anna Yukhananov, Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Dave Graham and Jeffrey Benkioe