Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, December 05, 2002

US-made Stinger Missiles, Rockets Being Sold in Kabul

American-made Stinger missiles, capable of taking down aircraft, are for sale in the Afghan capital for $200,000, as well as rockets for as little as $5,000, peacekeepers said Wednesday.


American-made Stinger missiles, capable of taking down aircraft, are for sale in the Afghan capital for $200,000, as well as rockets for as little as $5,000, peacekeepers said Wednesday.

Unidentified men recently approached peacekeepers with offers to sell the deadly weapons, the Turkish commander of the international force, Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, said.

The revelation came after after six rockets whistled over Kabul last week and exploded on the eastern edge of the city. The next day, another rocket hit a two-story building downtown near the Finance Ministry. Neither incident caused casualties or serious damage.

"After almost each incident we've been receiving some proposals to buy some rockets or missiles," Zorlu told reporters.

Asked how much the arms were going for, he said: "Some cheap, $5,000, $10,000. For a Stinger missile, $200,000."

Unclear Why Weapons Sellers Were Turned Away

The 4,800-strong International Security Assistance Force has no policy of buying back arms to disarm Afghans, though the force often seizes or destroys weapons. It was unclear why peacekeepers turned away men offering to sell weapons rather than arresting or questioning them.

British Cmdr. Geoff Wintle said he was aware of only one attempted sale, at the peacekeepers' Kabul compound two weeks ago.

"Some guy just pitched up at the gate and said he had a couple of Stingers in his backyard to sell. I don't think he was taken particularly seriously," Wintle said. "It's too bizarre a thing to do."

Wintle said the man's story was discounted in part because peacekeepers did not believe Stinger missiles were still around or posed any serious threat.

Stinger Missiles Posing Serious Danger?

Yet, the CIA supplied hundreds of surface-to-air Stinger missiles to Afghan guerrillas fighting the former Soviet-backed regime in the late 1980s. It is estimated that between 50 to 100 missiles remain unaccounted for. Several years ago, the United States offered to buy back the remaining missiles for $80,000 each. None were reportedly sold.

Stinger missiles lock onto their targets using a radar-guided system, making them more effective than heat-seeking missiles, which are easily foiled by decoy flares.

Zorlu said those who offered to sell the weapons were probably desperate for cash. Afghanistan, still struggling to emerge from over two decades of continuous warfare, is a poor country where housing and jobs are hard to come by. The country has also been flooded with weapons.

"During the wars and ethnic conflicts, people had been provided with weapons including rockets, mines, explosive materials, guns and air defense missiles," Zorlu said. "This is a really important issue to be solved for the security of the country."

Peacekeepers and Afghan authorities frequently seize caches of arms, including rockets, ammunition and assault rifles, while patrolling the city. International bomb disposal experts destroy mines and other unexploded ordnance almost daily.

Security in Kabul has been tight after several small explosions and occasional rocket attacks. The worst incident, the explosion of a powerful car bomb in a busy street Sept. 5, killed 30 people and injured dozens more.

The government blames the violence on its enemies: Remnants of the Taliban, loyalists of renegade Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, or al Qaeda terrorists.

Afghan Intelligence Unaware of Weapons Sales

Senior Afghan intelligence chief Mohammad Ali said Afghan authorities had not been approached by anyone wishing to sell arms. He had not heard of peacekeepers being approached.

But he rejected the possibility that anyone firing rockets at Kabul would be trying to sell them.

"We know that al Qaeda, Gulbuddin, and the Taliban are active," he said. "They want to disrupt life in Kabul and show there is no security here. They're not going to sell their weapons."

Zorlu said Afghan security forces, acting on intelligence from peacekeepers, seized a vehicle in the capital Monday carrying explosive materials. He said police had also recently seized 60 rockets in the city.

Despite the presence of peackeepers in Kabul this year, there have been two high-profile assassinations in broad daylight, including that of deputy president Abdul Qadir, and dozens of rocket attacks and bombings. Few arrests have been made.

Source: agencies

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