Bleach plot: Taliban ‘tried to poison’ NATO troops

A paramilitary soldier stands guard at the checkpoint overlooking the Pakistan border town of Torkham (Reuters / Aziz Haidari)
NATO says none of its troops have been harmed by what is thought to be a poisoning attempt by the Taliban at a military base in eastern Afghanistan. The militant group claimed to have killed five people by lacing their food with poison.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) began investigating the claim after finding “traces of bleach” in fruit and coffee at a dining facility at Forward Operating Base Torkham, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The contamination apparently occurred over the weekend, but it is not yet clear whether it was deliberate or accidental, Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman in Kabul said.

The toxic food was discovered before it caused any harm, military officials assured.

“Soldiers are now eating pre-prepared rations, and no one was affected. There is a full investigation that is narrowing down who was responsible,"
said Maj. David Eastburn, an ISAF spokesman.

The Taliban claimed on Monday that an Afghan cook had laced food at the base with poison, killing five people.

The news came amid mass protests in Afghanistan over the burning of the Koran and other Muslim holy scriptures by NATO troops. At least 40 people have been injured in continuing demonstrations.

On Monday, the Taliban carried out a suicide bombing at Jalalabad Airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people in retaliation for the act. The alleged poisoning of NATO soldiers was also claimed as a revenge attack for the Koran burnings. On Thursday, two US soldiers were killed in Nangarhar province by an Afghan trooper.

The UN decided to pull out its international staff from northern Afghanistan following violent demonstrations over the weekend.

The Pentagon ruled out changing its Afghanistan strategy, saying the violence over the Koran burnings would not divert the US from its broader objectives in the region. The White House said it would not alter its withdrawal plans and was proceeding with the pullout according to schedule.