U.S. mounts effort to combat Taliban's deadly homemade bombs

Friday, July 9, 2010; A08


U.S. mounts effort to combat Taliban bombs

Use of the Taliban's deadliest weapon, crude homemade bombs, has reached an all-time high in Afghanistan, where in the last week of June more than 300 of the devices either exploded or were found before they could detonate.

The number of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the country has risen relentlessly in recent years, up from about 50 a week during the summer of 2007. The bombs -- made using vast supplies of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, much of it brought in from Pakistan -- account for about two-thirds of NATO's troop fatalities in the nearly nine-year-long war. That figure also hit a per-month peak in June, with 102 dead.

Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters in Kabul on Thursday that the United States is in the process of delivering $3 billion worth of counter-IED equipment to Afghanistan, at least doubling what it now spends. That includes doubling to 64 the number of surveillance blimps that float above cities and military bases to detect Taliban activity and adding more explosive-residue detection kits and new drone aircraft.

About 1,000 people are also headed to Afghanistan to serve as lab technicians, intelligence analysts and investigators as part of the effort to disrupt the bombmaking networks.

On Thursday, three NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan, two of them by Taliban bombs.

-- Joshua Partlow


U.N. statement on sinking of warship

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council reached agreement Thursday on a draft statement that deplored and condemned the March 26 attack that sank the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, but stopped short of directly blaming North Korea.

The accord ended months of efforts by Seoul to persuade the North's chief ally, China, to back a statement condemning Pyongyang for the torpedo attack, which killed 46 sailors.

In the end, China approved only an ambiguous statement that hints at North Korea's responsibility but shields it from direct charges that it carried out an act of war.

The full 15-member council may vote on the statement as early as Friday.

-- Colum Lynch


3 Muslims convicted in airliner bomb plot

A London jury on Thursday convicted three British Muslims of conspiring to murder hundreds of people as part of a 2006 plot to blow up passenger planes flying over the Atlantic.

Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zaman, whose trial lasted three months, will be sentenced Friday. They face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

-- Associated Press

Court orders delay in U.S. extraditions

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered Britain to hold off on extraditing four terrorism suspects to the United States, saying it must show by Sept. 2 that life terms without parole in maximum-security prisons would not violate Europe's rights charter.

The suspects include three Britons and Egyptian-born radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, the one-eyed, hook-handed hard-liner whom the United States accuses of setting up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon.

-- Associated Press

India widens curfew in Kashmir: Authorities extended a curfew to other parts of India-controlled Kashmir after the army moved to take control of the region's summer capital, Srinagar, for the first time in almost two decades to quell weeks of violent protests. Separatist groups responded to the lockdown with a call for further rallies.

Clinton calls Cuban prisoner release 'positive': Cuba's decision Wednesday to release 52 political prisoners is "overdue" but still "a positive sign," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Cuba's Catholic Church said that five of the prisoners would be freed Wednesday and allowed to go to Spain and that the others would be freed over months.

-- From news services

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