AP File photo
PESHAWAR: Nine missiles about two and a half feet long each, were recovered from Afghan Jalozai camp on the outskirts of Nowshera which officials believe might have been used by Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war and were dumped at the camp, which once served as a launching pad for the war in Afghanistan, sources said.
Some intelligence sources however said these missiles might be ‘surface-to-air missiles’ of the Afghan war era – Stingers which were allegedly supplied by the United States to Mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
An internally displaced person (IDP), Hayat Khan son of Mir Haider from Bara, Khyber Agency, was digging the ground near his tent to stop flow of water to coming to his tent when he had found the missile-resembling objects.
In-charge of Jalozai police checkpost, Abdul Malik confirmed that the IDP Hayat Khan found the missiles while digging in Phase 6 of Jalozai Camp and informed the police.
Malik said higher officials were informed about the nine missiles and “we stopped the IDPs from digging further in the vicinity to avert any untoward incident.”
Describing the missiles, Malik said that each was roughly about three feet in length while the diameter for each was about two to three feet along with the casing.
The Station House Officer of Pabbi Police station, Shakeel Khan, speaking to Dawn.com said, “The size of the missiles or rockets found was about two and half feet but we are not sure about their make.”
Regarding a query whether they resemble Stinger missiles, Shakeel Khan said, “They are very old and rusted, covered in a plastic casing and hardly any writing or markings left on them; we could only see the words ‘52 degree’ written on them and only experts can tell the exact make.”
The intelligence sources, however, said that the missiles are believed to be surface-to-air missiles and might be those which were handed over to the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet troops during the 1980 invasion of Afghanistan – ‘Stingers’ which were the main power fight against Soviets in Afghanistan.
Regarding another query, sources said, “These proved to be a huge income source for the Afghan Mujahideen after the Soviet withdrawal, as the Americans allegedly had to purchase the missiles back from the warlords due to the fear that the technology might slip into others’ hands.”
An elderly local familiar to the Jalozai camp dwellers for many decades, who did not want to be named, said that he had seen such missile-resembling objects being sold by the Afghans living in the camp for lakhs of rupees after the Soviet war ended.
District Police Officer Hussain Khan told Dawn.com, “They are some kind of mortars and are extremely rusted, may be of Afghan war era which might have been dumped by the Afghans who had been living there,” adding, “they often come across such mortar shells, and RPGs in the abandoned camp.”
“I wish they were Stingers, but perhaps they are just mortars of some canon or large gun which are greatly rusted and beyond recognition, but surely they cannot not be stingers at all,” Hussain Khan insisted when asked if they found US Stingers.
The area where these missiles or rockets were found in Jalozai Camp, was reportedly inhabited by Arab fighters belonging to the Abdullah Azam Group. Abdullah Azam was believed to be the founder of the Jihad University in Nowshera and also regarded as the real founder of the Arab fighters group which was later branded as al-Qaeda by the US led coalition.
The Arab fighters also had an office, Baitul Ansar, in the same area where these missiles were found and most likely the objects discovered might have been their property but there was no credible evidence to confirm this.
Former Mujahideen leader and the chief of Ittehad Islami, Abdul Rasool Sayyaf's house was also in the same area of Jalozai, who supervised the Arab fighters at that time.
A former Afghan Mujahideen fighter, still associated with the Taliban and fighting the US troops in Afghanistan, told Dawn.com, “I believe the objects recovered cannot be Stinger missiles but they might be SAM-7 or Bolo-5, which were supplied by the US to shoot down the Soviet fighter aircraft.”
Regarding a query, he said, “Most of such missiles were supplied by the US-led coalition to the Mujahideen commanders to fight the Soviets, however, the Stingers came very late,” adding “these missiles used to be very costly; about half a million Pakistani rupees during that time, but don’t know how much they would cost today.”