Wednesday, February 18, 2009
British and Afghan soldiers have seized £50 million worth of heroin and drug making equipment.
Around 700 troops were involved in Operation Diesel which captured four drugs factories in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province and disrupted facilities making improvised bombs.
The daring raids were carried out raids in the notorious Sangin Valley, which the Ministry of Defence describes as the "Taliban heartland".
Defence Secretary John Hutton praised the bravery of British troops and said the drug seizures would starve the Taliban of funding and prevent drugs reaching UK streets.
Troops destroyed 1,295kg of wet opium which would have an estimated street value of over £6 million as heroin.
Chemicals used in the manufacture of heroin - ammonium chloride, acetic anhydride, sodium chloride and calcium hydroxide - were also found in quantities sufficient for the production of heroin with an estimated end street value of more than £50 million.
Weapons and ammunition, including AK47 assault rifles, PKM machine guns, numerous ammunition magazines and 3 RPG rocket launchers complete with additional warheads were also seized alongside a motorbike modified for use in a suicide attack.
Operation Diesel aimed to surprise enemy forces in the Sapwan Qualeh area, to disrupt insurgent and narcotics activity and to show that the Task Force and Afghan forces can strike with overpowering force.
Brigadier Gordon Messenger said: "The links between the Taliban and the drugs trade are well proven and we know that the revenue from narcotics production directly funds the insurgency.
"Operation Diesel was a clinical precision strike, supported by strong intelligence, which has had a powerful disruptive effect on known insurgent and narcotics networks in the area.
"The success of the operation is a significant boost to the Afghan authorities in their fight against the drugs trade.
"As a combined Isaf/Afghan team, we will continue to take every opportunity to strike at the linkage between the narcotics trade and the Taliban, the product of which brings so much misery to the Afghan people."