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Martini?

A couple of years back, when I was in Afghanistan to cover the first Presidential elections, I kept my eyes open for one of the famous Khyber Rifles. Legend has it that in the late 1800s the British Army scrapped its Martini Henry rifles, the ones the Brits use in the movie Zulu. . The rifles’ barrels were cut off before they were sold to a scrap metal dealer in India. The dealer sold the rifles to the Afghans and after bazaar craftsmen put new barrels on, the rifles they were good as new and were turned on their former owners. The story is that you can still buy these Martini Henrys in Kabul. I know a guy who thinks he's got one and I saw one for sale on Chicken Street there. But I think the rifles are made by the great-great-great-great grandsons of the craftsmen who rebuilt the original army surplus consignment. A close look at them reveals many of them are dated 1919 but have Queen Victoria’s royal cipher on them. The letters making up the makers’ name “Enfield” are often the wrong way around or upside down.

Actually, my visit to Chicken Street in the company of another journalist was quite funny because at the time of the first Presidential election nearly all the Europeans working for aid agencies in Kabul were out of the country or laying low. As we came around the corner, there was a well respected British television journalist, John Simpson, doing a stand-up to camera saying that Chicken Street was deserted. He didn't look happy when he realized we were standing behind him.

 

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