The overwhelming majority of the bombs used to devastating effect by the Taliban in Afghanistan are made from a fertiliser that has been banned by the Kabul government, the defence ministry said today.
Ammonium nitrate is the basic ingredient of 80 percent of the crude bombs that are killing record numbers of foreign troops and Afghan civilians each year, the ministry said.
The bombs, known as improvised explosive devices(IEDs) are cheap and easy to make, and are widely deployed by the insurgents in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai, now almost nine years old.
General Mohammad Shafi Baheer, deputy director of the ministry's planning department, said that until 2007, IEDs were made from leftover ordnance, littered across the country during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.
"In 2009, 80 percent of materials needed to make bombs were ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, which are found in fertilisers," he told reporters.
By 2008, the use of old mortars, rockets, bombs and other military explosives in IEDs had dropped to 38 per cent, by 2009 to 20 per cent, he said.
Under pressure from his international partners, Karzai last December banned the use, import and production of ammonium nitrate fertilisers.