Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Black Watch live up to their traditions

Black Watch soldiers destroy Taleban stronghold in dramatic raid. Three waves of Chinooks joined the raid

Hundreds of soldiers from the Black Watch have destroyed a Taleban stronghold after uncovering a network of tunnels that concealed bomb factories, the Ministry of Defence said.

About 500 soldiers, including members of the Afghan National Army and Canadian experts, swooped into Howz-e-Maded in the Zhari district of Kandahar province in three waves of six Chinook helicopters.

They were dropped within touching distance of Taleban positions. The insurgents were taken by surprise and quickly overwhelmed. The raid, before dawn on September 14, was the last major assault carried out by The Black Watch before they are to return home.

The Black Watch (3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) was supported by British, Canadian and US bombers, attack helicopters and unmanned drones. The target was known to be one of the biggest insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

A series of intense firefights ensued. Private Kevin Murphy, 28, of The Black Watch recalled: “The weight of fire from the aircraft was staggering. Heavy-calibre cannon and rockets ripped into the treelines around us as the insurgents tried to regroup. Some of it was very close to us but we had total faith in the pilots.”

As dawn broke, soldiers from Alpha (Grenadier) Company searched the compounds, finding ammunition, 28kg of explosives, medical supplies, communications equipment and weaponry.

They also found two motorbikes rigged as suicide bombs, as well as a grenade-launcher and recoilless rifle, both of which had been used against coalition forces in the area for months.

Bravo Company of The Black Watch broke into three Taleban defensive lines to link with Alpha Company. They fought off insurgent counterattacks to hold their ground. One of the soldiers was severely wounded and is now in the UK receiving treatment.

Corporal Jim Copeland said: “The insurgent’s defences were extraordinary. The wadi was lined with dug-in bunkers with interconnecting trenches, rat-runs and tunnel systems.” He said that there were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) everywhere. At the rear of the compounds, the soldiers found sniper positions and hides for weapons.

“Charlie (Fire Support) Company secured the northern boundary, finding further IEDs and fighting back the insurgents, ultimately securing a safe route and location for other elements of the battle-group to extract to after the deep strike had been completed,” the MoD said.

The raid took the soldiers into the heart of the Taleban frontline. All the compounds in the area had been abandoned by the local farmers.

Major Ben Cattermole, commanding Charlie (Fire Support) Company, said: “Tragically during the operation a young soldier was struck by an IED. He had been working tirelessly for 48 hours to protect Alpha Company’s route, and was about to join Bravo Company to continue to take the fight to the enemy when the incident happened. His comrades’ immediate actions to treat his wounds were exemplary. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as he continues to undergo surgery in the UK. His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Over the next few days, the troops found more Taleban weaponry and explosives. There were also continuing firefights in which more insurgents were killed. During the final phase of the attack, insurgents were caught laying a further IED screen and were quickly engagedfired on by attack helicopter.

Major Matt Munro, 37, officer commanding Alpha (Grenadier) Company, described the operation as an “unqualified success”.


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