British soldier held on gun charges in Bolivia

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A man who identified himself as a former British special forces soldier has been arrested in an Amazon jungle tourist town for illegal possession of weapons and cocaine, authorities have said.

Mark David Hassell was arrested on Monday night in his room at a boarding house in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, after neighbours complained that he threatened them, said Navy Captain Cimar Vides, the regional military chief.

A police spokesman said he had a submachine gun, a pistol and an unspecified quantity of cocaine.

Hassell was taken to the regional capital, Trinidad, on Wednesday where he is to appear before a judge on illegal arms and cocaine possession charges, Capt Vides said.

Hassell has the insignia of various British military units tattooed on his body, the official said. He added that Hassell had overstayed a tourist visa obtained last year.

“He has been an elite soldier. He was decorated and took part in the Bosnia war,” Capt Vides said.

The British Embassy said it was providing assistance to Hassell but declined further comment.

The police officer who arrested Hassell said the suspect gave his age as 43 and reported he had been in the British special forces and had also fought in Afghanistan.