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Afghan bomb makers shift to new explosives materials

June 25, 2013 at 3:37 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- Afghan insurgents have switched from fertilizer to potassium chlorate, the material that makes matches fire, to make homemade bombs, Pentagon research shows.

U.S. officials have attempted to stop the flow of fertilizer from Pakistan to Afghanistan. To an extent they succeeded, only to see a new source of explosives emerge. For the first time in the 12-year war, potassium chlorate is the most common ingredient of homemade explosives, fueling 60 percent of improvised explosives devices, or IEDs, USA Today reported Tuesday.

"What we have seen over the year is its use spreading across the country at an increasing rate," said Al Sweetser, researcher at the Joint IED Defeat Organization, the Pentagon's primary agency for combating homemade bombs.

Potassium chlorate is legal in Pakistan, and used in manufacturing matches and textiles. It is also cheaper and easier to use in manufacturing bombs than ammonium nitrate, the chief ingredient in fertilizer, Pentagon documents indicate.

Insurgents typically pack explosives into plastic jugs used for cooking oil. The bombs are detonated when stepped on or driven over, USA Today said.

Sweetser referred to it as a "victim-operated IED. It's kind of the signature device of the conflict in Afghanistan. Very simple to construct with readily available materials, and very hard to counteract."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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