- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

More than 100 Chinese artillery rockets found in Afghanistan were either smuggled into the country from China or sent years ago during the Soviet military occupation, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The discovery raises new questions about China's past support of the Taliban militia and its al Qaeda terrorist allies.
A U.S. defense official identified the weapons found Wednesday near Kabul as multiple-rocket launchers.
Another U.S. official said the weapons included Chinese-made rocket-propelled grenades. "These are things that could have come in during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, or they could have come in recently," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Soviet military forces occupied Afghanistan during the 1980s, and the United States, China and Saudi Arabia supplied arms to anti-Soviet rebels. Many Arab guerrillas who fought against the Soviets formed the basis for the al Qaeda terrorist network.
The rockets and rocket-propelled grenades likely were "smuggled in from western China," the U.S. official said.
Chinese 107-mm rockets normally are deployed in launchers that carry 12 rockets and are towed on a two-wheeled chassis or deployed on the back of vehicles, such as a truck or jeep. The exact details of the rockets could not be learned.
However, earlier in the week, two 107-mm rockets landed near facilities in Kabul used by troops of the 18-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Authorities in Afghanistan believe those rockets came from the cache that was discovered Wednesday.
In Kabul, Gen. Deen Mohammad Joorat, chief of security for the Interior Ministry of the interim government headed by Hamid Karzai, told reporters that the 151 Chinese-made rockets were part of a weapons cache seized on Wednesday at a hide-out of suspected Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
The capture of the weapons is expected to end the rocket attacks on the peacekeepers, Gen. Joorat said.
Mines and rifles also were discovered by the British-led international peacekeeping force.
The weapons were found as part of a series of arrests of people suspected of plotting the assassination of Mr. Karzai. As many as 160 persons have been detained since last week.
"We have also arrested a number of people in Kabul for firing rockets on installations of the ISAF," Gen. Joorat told Reuters news agency. "These people seem to have links with the Taliban and al Qaeda."
U.S. intelligence agencies stated in classified reports last year that China continued to supply arms to al Qaeda terrorists after the September 11 attacks. A week after the attacks, Beijing supplied a shipment of Chinese-made SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles to Osama bin Laden's terror network, according to senior U.S. officials.
A defense official said other Chinese arms have been found by U.S. forces since military operations began Oct. 7.
"These are not necessarily from the Chinese government," the official said. "I'm not sure the Chinese are very comfortable with having that kind of terrorism on their border. But this could have been from people just selling weapons to make money."
The Chinese weapons also could have been supplied to the now-ousted Taliban regime from Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, which has supported both Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the past, the defense official said.
Four additional rockets wired to be fired with electronic timers were found aimed at peacekeeping forces' bases.
ISAF spokesman Flight Lt. Joel Fall said international peacekeepers and Afghan police forces found the weapons cache, calling it a "significant find."
The weapons were found in an area on the road between Kabul and the former Soviet air base at Bagram, which is a major staging area for U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in December that a large stockpile of Chinese-made arms had been found in some caves used by al Qaeda fighters.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said at the time Mr. Rumsfeld made the remarks that he had no idea what the defense secretary was talking about and insisted that Beijing had observed a U.N. arms embargo against the Taliban regime.
A Taliban military commander stated in a published interview in October that China was secretly assisting the Islamic militia, which was ousted by U.S.-led forces in December.
The commander, Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, said China was working with the Taliban regime and that Beijing was "also extending support and cooperation to the Taliban, but the shape of this cooperation cannot be disclosed."
China's government denied the commander's statement, saying it was a "fabrication." China has said it does not support terrorism.
U.S. intelligence officials identified two Chinese companies that were building a telephone-switching network in Kabul for the past two years.
Elements of the Chinese phone network were bombed during U.S. air strikes that began Oct. 7.
Haqqani said Taliban fighters were prepared to conduct a long guerrilla war against the United States and had maintained a sufficient stockpile of weapons in mountain hide-outs.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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