Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has suspended a deal to finance an in-state fertilizer plant to be built by a Pakistani conglomerate that the Pentagon has criticized for refusing to take steps to stop the flow of materials to makers of bombs that kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
News of Mr. Pence’s action followed a report Monday in The Washington Times that said Pakistan’s Fatima Group stood to benefit from the sale of $1.27 billion in tax-exempt municipal bonds in Indiana even as it rebuffed Pentagon efforts to save U.S. lives.
The governor “immediately ordered that the project be suspended pending further investigation,” said Pence spokeswoman Christina Denault. “Indiana is actively investigating in consultation with federal authorities/[Defense Department] the situation at this time.”
Ms. Denault said Mr. Pence was briefed on “new developments regarding Fatima Group” on Jan. 14 shortly after taking office.
The Times reported that Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, whose office oversees efforts to thwart homemade bombs in Afghanistan, had criticized Fatima in testimony before a Senate subcommittee in December.
Gen. Barbero said Fatima had refused to take simple steps to prevent its calcium ammonium nitrate — a fertilizing compound used by bomb-makers — from being smuggled to Taliban operatives in Afghanistan.
In his testimony last month, Gen. Barbero said that Fatima is the only source of calcium ammonium nitrate being smuggled into Afghanistan, which outlaws importation of the substance. He said 85 percent of IEDs used to kill and maim Americans are homemade, and the majority of those are made with ammonium nitrate.
Gen. Barbero, who directs the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, testified that he had asked a Fatima official to begin dyeing its calcium ammonium nitrate so it could be picked out at border crossings. He said smugglers mask the compound as detergent.
“We’ve been told ‘no’ on the dye. I believe Pakistani-based [calcium ammonium nitrate] producers can and must do more,” he testified on Dec. 13.
“They have also started printing batch numbers on each bag. This number will provide information about the date of shipment, dealer and customer names, addresses, destinations, vehicle registration number and driver’s name, and ID numbers.”