Iran TerrorismIranian land mines found in Taliban commander's house

Iranian land mines found in Taliban commander’s house

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RFE/RL: Weapons made in Iran — or that have passed through Iran — continue to turn up in the hands of Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan. Afghan authorities say they have discovered a weapons cache in western Afghanistan containing 130 land mines of different types that appear to have been imported from Iran. PRAGUE, January 25, 2008 (RFE/RL) — Weapons made in Iran — or that have passed through Iran — continue to turn up in the hands of Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan. Afghan authorities say they have discovered a weapons cache in western Afghanistan containing 130 land mines of different types that appear to have been imported from Iran.

The cache includes about 40 sophisticated remote-controlled mines. It was discovered in Farah Province near the Iranian border.

Farah’s provincial police chief, General Khailbaz Sherzai, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan today that the cache was found in the house of a Taliban commander named Mullah Abdul Ghani.

“We discovered a cache containing a large collection of land mines — antipersonnel and antitank mines — in the Anardara District of Farah Province [near the border with Iran.”> They were recently brought from Iran and the man who was responsible for that has escaped. We completely destroyed the cache and the room it was contained in.”

The find is the latest in a series of caches of weapons that the U.S. military, NATO, or the Afghan government have confirmed were either made in Iran or transported through Iran to Taliban militants.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said Afghan officials have no evidence linking the Iranian government to such weapons shipments.

Last June, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said there is no evidence confirming a direct role by the Iranian government in smuggling weapons to the Taliban.

Gates has said the Taliban might be using funds from the opium trade to purchase weapons from criminal groups.

But Gates also has said the large quantity of Iranian-made weapons being discovered in Afghanistan makes it difficult to believe that the weapons are being smuggled without the knowledge of Iranian authorities.

In September, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Washington also had complained to Beijing about Chinese weapons shipped to Iran that appear to be turning up in Afghanistan in the hands of Taliban fighters.

Independent analysts agree that it would be difficult to smuggle the volume of weapons now being found in western Afghanistan without the knowledge of some senior official in Tehran.

Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and author of the book “Taliban,” says he has no doubt that the Iranian government has been channeling money and weapons to various elements in Afghanistan — including the Taliban — for the last several years.

“They have long-running relations with many of the commanders and small-time warlords in western Afghanistan. I think Iran is playing all sides in the Afghan conflict,” Rashid said. “If the Iranians are convinced that the Americans are undermining them through western Afghanistan, then it is very likely that these agents of theirs have been activated.”

Alex Vatanka, the Washington-based Iran analyst for Jane’s Information Group, says recent discoveries in Afghanistan of several large caches of Chinese and Iranian-made weapons suggest Tehran has had at least an indirect role in supplying Taliban militants.

“Whether the government or somebody in Iran could be buying arms from China and, without Tehran’s knowledge, ship it over to Afghanistan — on that volume of weapons, I find that extremely unlikely. I can only see that happening if somebody pretty senior and in an influential political position in the country decided to facilitate that without letting everybody in the system know about it. But they still would have to be involved somewhere in the state machinery.”

Vatanka also says he doesn’t think drug traffickers in eastern Iran are capable of sending so many weapons to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan without at least tacit approval from Iranian government officials.

(RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this feature.)

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