Pakistan seizes 14 tons of bomb making chemical

Updated 03 December 2012
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Pakistan seizes 14 tons of bomb making chemical

QUETTA: Pakistani authorities seized nearly 14 tons of potassium chlorate, a key ingredient in bomb making, from a bus in the country’s violent and unstable southwest yesterday, officials said.
The haul was made when officials acting on a tip-off stopped a bus just outside the city of Quetta loaded with the volatile substance hidden under cartons of food, an official with the government paramilitary force said.
“We have seized some 13,900 kilograms of potassium chlorate from a bus and arrested five people,” Frontier Corps Captain Johar Sarwar said.
“The substance was hidden in sacks under various food items.” Frontier Corps spokesman Murtaza Baig confirmed the haul and said the substance could be used to make bombs and was so dangerous that only a simple detonator was needed to make a deadly device.
The bus was bound for the remote town of Naushki, around 110 km west of Quetta, he said, adding that bomb disposal officers were summoned to check for detonators, but they found none.
Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, is frequently hit by bomb attacks.
The oil and gas-rich area borders Iran and Afghanistan, and suffers from sectarian violence, attacks by Taleban and a tribal insurgency.
Baluch rebels rose up in 2004, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s mineral resources.
Baluchistan has also been a flashpoint for violence between majority Sunnis and Shiites, who make up around 20 percent of the population.

More bodies found
Meanwhile, rescuers have found three more bodies after landslides in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said yesterday, taking the confirmed death toll to 15, with three people still missing.
A military and civilian rescue operation was launched after heavy snows on Friday triggered two landslides at a remote outpost in the Kel area of the disputed territory near the de facto border with India.
“Despite bad weather and heavy snowfall rescuers found three more bodies yesterday (Saturday) and are searching for three more who are still missing,” local administration official Raja Saqib Muneer said.
“So far 15 bodies have been recovered, including nine soldiers and six civilians.” Disputed Kashmir has been the cause of two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947.
But with separatist violence having dropped sharply following the start of a peace process in 2004, the greatest dangers facing soldiers stationed at remote outposts are often landslides and extreme weather conditions.
In April, 140 Pakistani soldiers were buried when a huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier base high in the mountains in Kashmir. They have all been declared dead, although some of the bodies remain buried.
That tragedy renewed debate about how much sense it made for a country where millions live below the poverty line to maintain outposts in Siachen, dubbed “the world’s highest battleground,” at immense cost when violence had decreased.
And in February, at least 16 Indian soldiers on duty in the mountains of Kashmir were killed when two avalanches swept through army camps.
In Friday’s accident, a wall of mud and snow hit the outpost in the early hours.
An 18-strong team was quickly dispatched to search for the soldiers at the outpost, which is 130 km from Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s main town of Muzaffarabad.


US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

Updated 30 min 7 sec ago
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US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE: US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will make his first visit to China this week amid rising tensions between the two countries but also a deep need for Beijing’s support in nuclear talks with North Korea.
Mattis told reporters Sunday he wants to “take measure” of China’s strategic ambitions after it positioned weaponry on disputed islets in the South China Sea and is seeking to project its military power deep into the Pacific.
But in a four-day trip that will also include South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon chief also hopes to confirm China’s commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, after historic talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
The United States, China, Japan and South Korea “have a common goal: the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.
In Beijing From Tuesday to Thursday, Mattis will meet with senior Chinese defense officials.
Then he will travel to Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo, followed by a stop Friday in Japan to see defense chief Itsunori Onodera.
Those meetings are aimed at reassuring both allies that Washington’s regional defense commitment remains unchanged after Trump unexpectedly announced on June 12 that the US would suspend a major joint military exercise in South Korea following his meeting with Kim.
The visit to China comes amid bilateral strains that cross multiple sectors. The Trump administration is challenging China on trade, theft of industrial secrets, and cyberthreats.
In the defense sector, China’s decision to position military hardware in built-up atolls in the South China Sea has sparked new security concerns throughout Southeast Asia.
Signaling Washington’s displeasure, in May the Pentagon disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, in which some two dozen navies train together for mostly civilian missions.
Weeks later at the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in Singapore, Mattis slammed China for showing contempt of other nations’ interests in the South China Sea.
“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said.
The Chinese, who say the weaponry is only defensive in nature, retorted that Mattis had made “irresponsible comments” that “cannot be accepted.”
Mattis has visited Asia seven times in his 17 months since becoming defense secretary, but not China. He has yet to meet the new Chinese defense minister, Wei Fenghe.
He said the talks in Beijing seek to scope out China’s long-term strategic intentions and determine possible areas of military-to-military cooperation.
He declined to characterize the relationship, saying that could “poison the well” before he meets his counterparts.
“I’m going there to get what I consider to be straight from them what they see for a strategic relationship,” he said. “I’m going there to have a conversation.”
But speaking separately a senior Pentagon official called the United States and China “strategic competitors” and suggested that Washington needs to keep up the pressure over the South China Sea buildup.
The Rimpac disinvite could be “just a first step,” the official said.
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Mattis was visiting Beijing at Wei’s invitation.
“It is in the common interests of both China and the United States to develop a healthy and stable bilateral military relationship,” Ren said in a statement.
Beijing “hopes that the United States and China will walk toward each other and work together to make the bilateral military relationship an important stabilizing factor in the relationship between the two countries.”
Mattis will also be adding his voice to North Korea talks, urging China to hold firm on commercial pressure on Pyongyang.
He said he has had daily discussions on the talks with the lead US negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The senior US defense official said they are hoping to see a concrete outcome, including a timeline for commitments by Pyongyang, “soon.”
Mattis tied the suspension of exercises to the getting concrete results.
“We’ll see if they continuing negotiations keep them that way.”
Mattis meanwhile confirmed that US officials are awaiting the imminent release by Pyongyang of the remains of US servicemen who died in the Korean war in the early 1950s.
Preparations to receive the remains have been made, he said, and “We’re optimistic that it will begin.”