The South Asia Channel

100 tons of potassium chlorate seized from warehouse during Pakistani raid

Warehouse seizure  Pakistani security forces seized nearly 100 tons of potassium chlorate, a common bomb-making chemical, and detained 10 people on Tuesday night during a raid in Quetta, Balochistan (BBC, RFE/RL).  According to Col. Maqbool Shah, a senior commander for the Frontier Corps, the raid came a day after two men were arrested in Quetta ...

BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Warehouse seizure 

Pakistani security forces seized nearly 100 tons of potassium chlorate, a common bomb-making chemical, and detained 10 people on Tuesday night during a raid in Quetta, Balochistan (BBC, RFE/RL).  According to Col. Maqbool Shah, a senior commander for the Frontier Corps, the raid came a day after two men were arrested in Quetta while transporting 15 tons of potassium chlorate in a truck; the two men later led officers to a warehouse that was stocked with the chemical, as well as detonators, guns, and ammunition. While the stockpiles have not been linked to any particular militant group, potassium chlorate was used in two bombings by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi earlier this year.

A separate raid by security and intelligence services in Lahore on Tuesday morning broke up an illegal telephone exchange that may have been used by al-Qaeda (Dawn, Pajhwok).  According to news reports, the exchange may have facilitated communications related to the kidnappings of Dr. Warren Weinstein, a U.S. national; Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain Punjabi Governor Salman Taseer; and several other people.  Hundreds of thousands of cellphone SIM cards, as well as weapons and explosives, were seized in the raid.  Six suspects from the Dawood and Hassan Gull terrorist groups, which have links to al-Qaeda, were taken into custody. 

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed economic sanctions on the Ganj madrassa in Peshawar on Monday, saying in a statement that it "serves as a terrorist training center where students, under the guise of religious studies, have been radicalized to conduct terrorist and insurgent activities" (BBC, Pajhwok).  The Treasury said that it was the first time a madrassa had been the target of sanctions, which forbid Americans from having any business interactions with the facility and freeze any of its assets that come under U.S. jurisdiction.  According to the Treasury statement, the madrassa was used as a base for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and is headed by Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, who has been classified as a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations since 2009 for his support to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.  There has been no reaction as yet from the madrassa’s staff. 

A Pakistani army captain was killed and another was seriously wounded on Tuesday night when Indian troops shelled the Shakma sector of Kashmir, the latest casualties in more than two weeks of back-and-forth firing between the two neighbors along the area’s Line of Control (AP, BBC, Dawn, ET).  Pakistani troops said the Indian actions were "unprovoked," but that they responded with a gun battle that lasted about three hours.  On the Indian side, an army official said Indian troops came under heavy mortar and light-machine gun fire from the Pakistani side in the Kargil region and that "under intense pressure… we fired back" (Reuters).

Bearing witness

The first of nine Afghan witnesses took the stand in Seattle on Monday in the sentencing hearing of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a U.S. soldier who has pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians last March (AP, BBC, NYT).  Mohammad Haji Naeem, who was shot in the face by Bales, told the court: "This bastard stood right in front of me! I wanted to ask him, ‘What did I do?  What have I done to you?’… And he shot me."  When pressed by military prosecutors to provide more details about the attack, he wept and left the stand.  The Afghan witnesses were flown to Seattle on tourist visas by the U.S. military, and are the first to testify in a hearing that will determine whether Bales, who will be serving a life sentence, will ever be eligible for parole.

Gen. Heinz Feldmann, a spokesman for NATO’s International Assistance Security Force (ISAF), told Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news service in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that coalition forces have vacated 90 percent of their bases ahead of next year’s withdrawal (Pajhwok).  According to Feldmann, "ISAF once had over 800 small and big military bases, but the number has now fallen to less than 100."  While he wouldn’t give specific information about how many bases have been handed over to Afghan security forces, Feldmann did say that they are working with the Afghan finance ministry to decide which bases should be put under Afghan control.

Abdul Hadi, the head of the Independent Election Commission in Helmand province, told reporters on Wednesday that residents in the province are increasingly taking part in the country’s voter registration campaign, though there are still security concerns in some districts (Pajhwok).  According to Hadi, 13,000 individuals in 11 districts have been registered to vote since the registration drive began in May.  Insecurity seems to be restricting registration efforts in several northern districts, where many voters lack identification cards and need local elders to verify their identities so they can receive the cards, but those residents do seem interested in voting, if it can be safe.  Brig. Gen. Juma Gul Himmat, a deputy police chief in Helmand, said that security in most districts had improved and would be further strengthened by Election Day. 

A city with no addresses

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan profiles a Kabul mailman who is tasked with delivering the mail in a city with few street names and house numbers (RFE/RL).  While the Afghan government has launched a two-year plan to create a new address system using GPS coordinates, Omeed and other mailmen like him must rely on landmarks and often unreliable directions from local residents in their attempts to deliver letters and packages across the city.

Update: In front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 people, Afghanistan’s soccer team beat Pakistan 3-0 in the first international game played in Kabul in over a decade (BBC, Pajhwok, Reuters, RFE/RL, VOA).  The "friendly" match was the first game between the two countries in Kabul since 1976, and was billed as a sign that Afghanistan is starting to return to a level of normality after decades of war.

— Bailey Cahall 

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