U.S., Canadian and Afghan forces find anti-aircraft missiles in cave complex

Friday, July 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) _ Canadian-led coalition forces have discovered a stash of anti-aircraft missiles in a cave complex in southeastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military official said Friday.

Members of the Canadian light infantry, U.S. special forces and their Afghan allies found the cave complex south of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, Army Col. Roger King told reporters at Bagram air base, the U.S. headquarters for the war in Afghanistan.

The soldiers found ``numerous'' Soviet-style SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles and three British Blowpipe missiles, King said. The mission ended late Thursday and all forces have returned to their base in Kandahar, he said.

Coalition forces _ mainly U.S. and British troops _ have been scouring southern Afghanistan for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Few fighters have been found, but many weapons have been discovered in the region's many caves.

King said the weapons would likely be destroyed and not given to the nascent Afghan national army, which is currently being trained and is in desperate need of weapons.

``Every time we find a weapons cache we evaluate it based on the needs of the Afghan national army,'' King said. ``Many of the things that we're finding are heavier weapons that are not geared to what we're trying to equip the Afghan national army with.''

U.S. forces are training the Afghan army near the capital, Kabul, and the first battalion is due to graduate later this month. The plan is to train and equip a light infantry force for Afghanistan using AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles, King said.