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Afghan police unearth rocket cache near Kabul

Kabul, May 22, 2010

Afghan police unearthed a cache of hundreds of rockets on the outskirts of the capital, officials said on Saturday, weapons they believed were earmarked for use against a traditional peace meeting, or jirga, next week.

The discovery comes just days after Taliban insurgents and launched a suicide bomber and rocket attack against Nato's biggest military base at Bagram, an hour's drive north of Kabul.

Also this week, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden van into a Nato convoy in Kabul, killing six servicemen and at least a dozen Afghan civilians.

Speaking during a news conference in Kabul, city police chief Abdul Rahman Rahman showed nearly 300 122mm rockets, telling reporters that "spy agencies of neighbouring countries" had been seeking hired guns to fire them.

Officials often refer to Pakistan in these terms, and more specifically to its perceived support for Taliban militants which Islamabad denies.

"Some elements were paid to relocate these rockets and intelligence gathered shows around 20 million Pakistan rupees ($240,000) was promised to those who undertake the launching," Rahman said.

Insurgents are known to favour using rockets because they can be fired from distances of up to 20 km from their target and can also be cannibalised to create deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Although rockets in the capital have rarely caused serious casualties, Rahman said such attacks hinder Afghan efforts to provide security for ordinary citizens.

Afghanistan is holding a jirga on May 29, where thousands of community elders and Afghan officials will try to find ways to convince Taliban insurgents to enter into peace talks.-Reuters




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