Weapons: Fertilizer Bombs In Afghanistan

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November 7, 2008: In Afghanistan, the Taliban have apparently run out of munitions left over from the 1980s war with Russia, and are increasingly using fertilizer based explosives for their roadside bombs. Mix fertilizer with the right amount of diesel or gasoline, use a detonator to set it off, and it goes off like second rate explosives.

Fertilizer explosives are bulkier than the kind of military explosives found in 1980s era bombs and shells. The explosive power varies with the skill of whoever is mixing the fertilizer and fuel. Thus the roadside bombs are often less powerful than the ones using military or commercial explosives, and often much larger and easier to spot. NATO troops, learning from their Iraqi experienced U.S. counterparts, are getting more effective at spotting these bombs.

Currently, about 90 percent of the roadside bombs are detected and disarmed or destroyed before they can hurt anyone. A lot of these bombs are found because local civilians tip the troops off. While the civilians risk retaliation from the Taliban, it is civilians who suffer the most casualties from these devices. The troops increasingly travel in well protected vehicles, and the explosion tends to hurt any unprotected civilians within range. The Taliban don't try too hard to avoid civilian casualties.

 

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