Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Royal Engineers destroy munitions in Helmand

Members of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) have recently assisted the Afghan National Army and Police in destroying nearly 70 items of dangerous, unexploded munitions in a series of controlled explosions.

The disposal of the munitions took place at the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah and at the Kandahar Gate area on the outskirts of the town.

The Afghan National Security Forces operating in this area have been increasingly successful at seizing and finding weapons, munitions and unexploded ordnance, items which are used by the insurgency and are also legacy items from previous conflicts.

As part of continuing efforts to make these items safe, the British Royal Engineers were called in to assist in the destruction of the more dangerous and unstable items.

The items included 107mm rockets, mortar shells, anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines, rocket-propelled grenade warheads and propellant, recoilless-rifle rounds and projectiles. Some were in an advanced state of disrepair, rusty and damaged, so it was not safe for them to be moved; they were therefore made safe in place.

Afghan National Security Forces provided a security cordon in the area to keep the local population at a safe distance while the Royal Engineers carefully moved the most unstable items to a safe area of the headquarters compound before destroying them.

Lance Corporal Thomas Watson, 33 Engineer Regiment, said:

"These items could have caused some severe injuries or death to anyone. Even in the places where local people are lucky enough to know that unexploded ordnance exists, having to steer clear prevents rural workers from farming their land - making their lives even more difficult.

"By helping to remove these devices, not only do we keep people safe and prevent them being used against us but we also help to win the hearts and minds of local people."

To prevent disturbing the area with further explosions, the remaining items, which were safe enough to be moved, were loaded by Afghan and British forces into vehicles and driven to the Kandahar Gate area of Lashkar Gah where they were then destroyed.

Captain Ben Sinclair, 33 Engineer Regiment, said:

"The Afghan Security Forces are increasingly having to deal with these potentially deadly weapons and unexploded munitions to protect the local population and we were happy to assist them in the safe destruction of nearly 70 items.

"These sorts of munitions were old, damaged and unstable - they posed a significant threat to local civilians who could easily have come across them during their normal daily business. In addition, such weapons could have been used by the insurgency in the form of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] - the sort of indiscriminate tactics which have been killing and maiming Afghan and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] security forces but, all too often, Afghan civilians too.

"Developing the capability of the Afghan Security Forces to deal with IEDs and unexploded ordnance forms part of the long-term strategy for Helmand, working with them in this sort of activity is a key part of that process."

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