Monday, July 27, 2009

Armoured thrust clears final Taliban from 'Panther's Claw'

A final armoured thrust across enemy territory has marked the end of Operation PANTHER'S CLAW; a five-week campaign to clear one of the few remaining Taliban strongholds in Helmand province.

The operation, known as PANCHAI PALANG in Pashtu, has cleared and secured the area between Lashkar Gah and Gereshk, a region which is home to up to 80,000 Helmandis.

In a fiercely fought battle with the insurgents, British forces inflicted heavy losses on enemy forces, decimating their command and control structures and visibly weakening their resistance.

As the fighting subsided and insurgents fled from their hidden positions, local people started to flock back to the previously deserted towns and villages.

The final push in the five-week-long operation began in the early hours of 20 July 2009 when a mechanised Warrior company from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (2 Royal Welsh) pushed south west from Spin Masjed in an armoured sweep towards the east bank of the Luy Mandah wadi.

Simultaneously, four Chinooks carrying 160 men from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), swooped into the Green Zone to secure nearby key ground in the west of Babiji.

One hundred and forty men from 2 Royal Welsh in a convoy of Warriors, supported by tanks from a Danish battalion, pushed through the lush green countryside in the heart of the Green Zone, while their Scottish colleagues used the element of surprise to storm across land just a short distance away.

The Royal Welsh cut through the countryside to avoid potentially lethal tracks and roadways strewn with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), linking up with 3 SCOTS who had pushed along the Babiji Road.

The battle groups encountered relatively little resistance, an indication that Taliban fighters have fled the area as their hierarchy has fallen apart following the sustained attack over the past five weeks.

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