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Guards to be armed with pepper spray

Members of Switzerland's non-professional army will no longer do guard duty with guns ready to shoot.

The defence ministry suspended a controversial regulation - in force since the beginning of this year - in the wake of eight incidents when shots were fired accidentally.

Instead the soldiers will be handed pepper spray for self defence.

The safety of army members was a priority, a statement said on Monday. It added that investigations would be carried out into the incidents in which no one was seriously injured.

Guards will still carry loaded guns, but no shots can be fired before the ammunition is put in position. But commanders still have the right to order duty with live guns.

The Association of Officers welcomed the new policy, while the pacifist group Switzerland without an Army said the change came too late.