France to run new EU-funded bomb lab in Afghanistan

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France will operate a new laboratory in Afghanistan aimed at countering make-shift bombs and booby-traps, the leading killer of international troops, officials said Monday.

EU defence ministers meeting in Luxembourg rubber-stamped the plan for a rapidly deployable EU-funded "field laboratory" to be run by France, backed by Poland.

Information gleaned by the laboratory at the site of an attack is to be made available to all EU nations and those involved in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

One million euros (1.3 million dollars) of European money is to be invested in the new unit, officials said.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin said France would be the "framework nation" for the laboratory, with French troops, most of whom are based in eastern Afghanistan, operating the equipment.

According to US defence data, casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) doubled last year among international forces, as did the number of incidents involving the roadside bombs.

The explosives killed 322 coalition soldiers in the Afghan war in 2009 and wounded 1,813, compared to 183 killed in 2008 and 790 wounded.

The military has been working to improve equipment to detect the crude but deadly road-side bombs -- mostly made from fertiliser, fuel and metal -- which are the Taliban and Al-Qaeda's weapon of choice.

A European diplomat said the laboratory was expected to be put into use in the middle of next year.

© 2010 AFP

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