Saturday, October 3, 2009
RIFLES launch assault on Taliban drugs factory
Soldiers who are about to return home from Afghanistan have dealt the Taliban one last blow, by destroying millions of pounds worth of drugs in an early morning assault.
Troops from 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 RIFLES) were dropped into the remote Ghorak district, to the east of Sangin, in the early hours of 16 September 2009.
Three Chinooks relayed the troops to the edge of Wushtan village, from where around 100 soldiers ventured further into the compounds, ever wary of the improvised explosive device threat.
Throughout the village, soldiers stumbled upon drug factory after drug factory, uncovering a series of stashes of both opium and poppy seeds.
As they carefully made their way through the compounds, they spotted some insurgents preparing to launch an attack on them. They called in air support and the insurgents were destroyed by an Apache attack helicopter.
The soldiers spoke to villagers and quickly established that up to 45 children from the village had been forced to work in the drug factories, processing opium for the Afghan drug barons.
The total hoard of drugs amounted to 331kg of opium and 135kg of poppy seeds. Locally this would amount to the equivalent of approximately £13,000. But on the streets of Britain its estimated value would be something in the region of £3.3m.
The Royal Military Police and a Tiger Team from the Afghan Counter Narcotics Unit were on hand to dispose of the drugs safely.
Rifleman Carl Dresser, one of the soldiers who found much of the drugs haul, said:
"It was unreal to see that amount of drugs. They were burnt so they won't be on the streets back home."
Rifleman Raymond Gradidge added:
"It's good to see that we are doing something positive both for the local Afghans and keeping drugs off the streets."
The operation, codenamed GHARTSE BRESHNA 3, is one in a series of missions in the Sangin district which have targeted the Taliban's financial and logistical bases, setting the conditions for 3rd Battalion The Rifles to take over from 2 RIFLES in October.
As they moved their way through the village, British soldiers stumbled upon propaganda leaflets from the Taliban, showing an active presence in the area.
Officer Commanding A Company, Major Karl Hickman, said:
"This operation will hit the Taliban hard and demonstrate there is nowhere for them to hide. It has shown that the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] are committed to bring stability and security to the people of Afghanistan."
Two suspects were also detained when traces of explosives were found on them and their clothes. They were handed to the National Directorate of Security to be dealt with.