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Weapons recovered from the truck are displayed at a checkpoint in Kabul, yesterday.
KABUL: Security forces in the Afghan capital defused a truck bomb packed with nearly eight tonnes of explosives, the biggest of its kind discovered in the country, officials said yesterday amid heightened security.
Intelligence forces discovered the explosives in eastern Kabul, wired and ready for detonation. Five Al Qaeda- linked Haqqani network insurgents were killed in a resulting firefight.
“This bomb could have destroyed an area around 1.5km (in radius). Yan you imagine the kind of catastrophe it could be,” Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security, told a news conference. It contained sodium chloride, ammonium nitrate, other chemicals and some diesel. After more than 11 years of war, insurgents are still able to strike strategic military targets and launch high-profile attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.
The bomb was discovered on Wednesday two days after US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel left the capital. On the first day of his visit, a suicide bomber struck about 1km away from his morning meetings at a Nato facility.
Two Haqqani operatives were arrested during a raid at night and Tahiri said the militants had been planning to target a military facility in the capital. There are several foreign and Afghan military bases in Kabul, housing thousands of soldiers.
The Haqqani network is regarded as the most dangerous US foe in Afghanistan. Kabul is bracing for the start of the spring fighting season, and officials fear militants will infiltrate the capital as the snow melts in the mountains to the east where they hide. Insurgent groups, including the Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hizb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are known be living in restive Wardak province, 40 minutes drive from Kabul.
Afghan officials said this week they were worried that Kabul would be in danger after President Hamid Karzai ordered US special forces tasked with fighting the Taliban to leave Wardak.
US special forces are expected to play a major role after most Nato combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014, and Karzai’s decision could complicate negotiations between the US and Afghanistan over the scope of US operations after the pullout.
International forces in Afghanistan have also been warned that recent inflammatory remarks by Karzai have put them at risk, Nato Commander General Joseph Dunford said in an email this week, the New York Times said this week. Karzai accused the US of colluding with the Taliban hours before he met Hagel. His remarks, rejected by Washington, highlight an often tense relationship with the US. Reuters