Tuesday, August 11, 2009
British troops storm narco labs in night air assault
Hundreds of troops have swooped into a network of narcotics labs in the Sangin valley as part of a massive air assault which saw them bag a huge haul of opium and kill a number of insurgents.
Eighteen UK, US and Australian helicopters carrying 300 soldiers from The 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, accompanied by scores of Afghan troops, dropped into the Taliban stronghold just after nightfall on 7 August 2009.
The spectre of nine Chinooks, four Apache attack helicopters, three Black Hawk and two Sea King helicopters loomed over the targeted compounds in a vast expanse of open desert, before sweeping into the area to clear it of suspected Taliban fighters.
By 2200hrs the soldiers filed off the helicopters against the dramatic backdrop of sheer rock faces and lay low against the ground, waiting for further orders.
Moving into the heart of Malmand Chinah, close to Ghowrak in the Sangin Valley, they then mounted a fierce attack on a series of compounds sweeping through one narcotics lab after another. Using sniffer dogs they pinpointed and seized a massive haul of 250 kilograms of wet opium.
Creeping into the first moonlit compound, all seemed quiet, with most people asleep in their beds but as they pushed east into a second they were engaged by Taliban fighters lying in wait in for them. The troops returned fire, drawn into a short but fierce fight through the rabbit warren of rooms in the mud compounds.
Explosive experts then began to smash their way through the Taliban-ridden compounds by blasting holes in the walls to allow a stream of soldiers to flood into the area. It is thought that seven insurgents were killed during the subsequent fighting.
In one of the compounds 250 kilograms of wet opium and a number of weapons were destroyed in situ.
By the break of dawn, the troops extracted from the compounds to the makeshift helicopter landing site in the desert, where a fleet of helicopters reloaded to take the troops back to their base in Kandahar.
Major Robin Lindsay, 37, from Perth who is from The 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland led the operation. He said: “This was a highly successful operation. This type of high intensity technique, where we airlift a large number of troops into a small area, effectively storming it, has been shown to work time after time.
“It proves to the Taliban beyond doubt that they have no safe havens even in the most remote, isolated places. We can hit them at will wherever and whoever they are. There are no out-of-bounds areas for ISAF troops.
“This air assault highlights the truly multi-national nature of operations in Afghanistan. Notably, we were accompanied by quite a number of our Afghan counterparts and the success of the operation is also testament to their effectiveness. They are committed, professional and brave; a true force to be reckoned with.
“The money that would have come from the sale of the opium would undoubtedly have funded the insurgents’ activities, further strengthening their hold in the area and their ability to launch deadly attacks on coalition forces. This kind of operation hits at the heart of the insurgency because it significantly reduces their capability to continue the fight. With fewer numbers and diminished resources, they are simply less effective.”