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.