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Monday, September 15, 2008

Taliban Claim Weapons Supplied by Iran

Taliban Claim Weapons Supplied by Iran
September 15, 2008 Telegraph Kate Clark in Kabul
A Taliban commander has credited Iranian-supplied weapons with successful operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan. The comments by the commander, who would not be named but operates in the south east of the country where there has been a surge in Taliban attacks, were a rare admission of co-operation between elements within the Iranian regime and forces fighting British and American troops in Afghanistan."There's a kind of landmine called a Dragon. Iran's sending it," he said. "It's directional and it causes heavy casualties."We're ambushing the Americans and planting roadside bombs. We never let them relax."The commander, a veteran of 30 years who started fighting when the Soviet Union was occupying Afghanistan, said the Dragon had revolutionised the Taliban's ability to target Nato soldiers deployed in his area."If you lay an ordinary mine, it will only cause minor damage to Humvees or one of their big tanks. But if you lay a Dragon, it will destroy it completely," he said.A "Dragon" is the local nickname for a type of weapon known internationally as an Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) or "shaped charge" and has been used with devastating effect in Iraq by Iranian-backed groups. It is shaped so that all the explosive force is concentrated in one direction - the target - rather than blasting in all directions and weakening its impact.A former mujahideen fighter who knows the Afghan arms market well and who asked to be known as Shahir said the Dragon mines came directly from Iran.Iran has denied these allegations, but Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador in Kabul, said the British Army, which is deployed in south-western Afghanistan, had intercepted consignments of weapons which they believe were "donated by a group within the Iranian state".The only other possible source, the arms expert said, would be Pakistan's Tribal Areas where a relatively sophisticated arms industry has grown up. "Until now," he said, "no-one in the Tribal Areas has been able to copy these mines. Both the metal and the explosives are different, very high quality and very effective, obviously not Chinese or Pakistani."He said there were two routes for Iranian weaponry getting to the Taliban. "There are people inside the state in Iran who donate weapons. There are also Iranian businessmen who sell them."Iranian-made weapons, he said, whether smuggled or donated, were the most popular among Taliban fighters and fetch premium prices on the open market. "A Kalashnikov rifle made in Iran costs two to three hundred dollars more than one made anywhere else" he said. "Its beauty lies in the fact that it can also fire grenades, up to 300 meters. This is something new and it's in great demand."Iran, a theocratic, Shia Muslim state should have little common cause with the Taliban, an extremist Sunni Muslim movement which massacred hundreds of Afghan Shia civilians and killed nine Iranian diplomats when it was in power.Only the worsening relations between Iran and America might explain the weapons supply.Sir Sherard said Iran was playing "a very dangerous game".He added: "I suspect some of their agencies genuinely don't know what others are up to. We've seen a limited supply of weapons by a group within the Iranian state, not necessarily with the knowledge of all other agencies of the Iranian state, sending some very dangerous weapons to the Taliban in the south."-
Kate Clark's full report is on BBC2's Newsnight on Monday Sept 15 at 10.30pm, and the BBC World Service on Thursday Sept 18 at 10.10am

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