Black Watch smash stronghold
A KEY insurgent stronghold in southern Afghanistan has been smashed by soldiers from The Black Watch.
The troops—many of whom hail from Tayside and Fife— uncovered then destroyed an astonishing array of narcotics and Taliban weapons during the daring three-day mission in the Garsmir district of Helmand Province.
Despite fierce insurgent opposition, the soldiers seized opium and an incredible 1.5 tons of hashish.
A catalogue of bomb-making equipment was also discovered, from deadly pressure pads to the basic ingredients for making home-made explosives.
The Black Watch entered the Lakari Bazaar, known as “the belly of the snake,” under the cover of darkness.
They formed part of a 315-strong force, which also included an Afghan counter narcotics team and US bomb disposal experts.
Supported by US Marine Corps Harrier jets and Cobra helicopter gunships, the squaddies completely isolated the area as dawn broke.
They started a methodical search and quickly found bomb-making equipment along with chemicals used to refine opium into heroin—a key source of income for the insurgents.
Private Tony Brownless (22), from Inverness, described the finds as “amazing.”
“There was a block of hash the size of a football,” he said.
“After hours of searching countless shops, we opened one and there were loads of big bags of hash and a stash of bomb components.
“The next shop had explosive devices made and ready to plant, plus components to make the bombs.”
Insurgent fire continued for a second day while the soldiers searched and there were fierce exchanges as they located more explosives and bomb components.
The battlegroup spent a final day on the ground preparing to leave and setting the charges to blow up all the finds.
Private Aaron Black (20), from Blairgowrie, took great satisfaction in seeing the weapons and drugs destroyed.
“It is good to know all that stuff has been destroyed so the insurgents cannot use it and the people can start using the bazaar again in safety,” he said.
Lt Col Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer of The Black Watch 3 SCOTS, was full of admiration for the way his troops went about their highly dangerous duties.
“This was a key insurgent hot spot in southern Afghanistan and we have driven a wedge between the legitimate economic hub and the insurgent bomb facilitators,” he said.
“The long-term effect of this will be maintained by the US Marines who built an operating base to the north east of the bazaar.”
Major Al Steele, of The Black Watch Battlegroup, spoke of his pride following the mission.
“An unqualified success, this was another example of the tenacity of the Scottish soldier when faced with the most difficult and dangerous of situations,” he said.
By Dave Lord