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Rockets from Iran seized in Afghanistan

March 10, 2011

AFP, 9 March 2011: International forces in Afghanistan have seized a “significant” shipment of rockets from Iran which would have doubled insurgents’ strike range, an official said Wednesday.

The 48 122mm rockets, which have a range of 20 kilometres (13 miles), are being linked to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and were seized last month in Nimroz, a southwestern Afghan province bordering Iran.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan accuses Iran of providing equipment and support to Afghan militants waging an insurgency against US-led international troops.

But Iran rejects this, with a foreign ministry spokesman describing the allegations last week as “baseless and unacceptable.”

ISAF spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Colette Murphy told AFP: “These rockets have a further distance than anything that has previously been found… They can go about 20 kilometres, that’s what makes the find so significant.”

She added that this was about double the range of the insurgents’ current reach with comparable weapons.

Markings on the rockets indicated they were from Iran, she added, saying it was the Revolutionary Guards “who our folks are telling us that supplied them.”

Iran is sometimes seen as hostile to the Taliban for religious reasons but analysts suggest it could support insurgents as a counterweight to arch-enemy the US, which has 97,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 140,000-strong international force.

US Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, ISAF’s deputy chief of staff, last month spelled out the support it believes Iran is giving to insurgents in Afghanistan.

“They are giving them a limited amount of bullets, technical pieces of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), rockets, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) through networks well-established through the border,” he said.

He added the situation was “not a major concern” but warned Iran could increase its support “overnight.”

 

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