British troops seize £50m of Taliban narcotics
Seven hundred British troops seized four Taliban narcotics factories containing £50m of drugs and killed 20 enemy fighters in an operation in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.
Operation Diesel, which took place earlier this month but was revealed today, involved marine commandos, infantry, an airborne assault, and "phantom threats" to distract the enemy, the MoD said.
Overwhelming firepower forced the enemy to flee the area in the Upper Sangin valley, Helmand province where opium and heroin factories provided funding for the Taliban, the MoD said.
Earlier, it announced the death of a soldier from 1st Battalion The Rifles, who died of wounds received after his foot patrol came under fire south of Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand. His death took the total number of British personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 145.
Operation Diesel, which also involved Afghan forces, took place between 6 and 11 February. A reconnaissance force climbed to high ground overlooking their targets. An armoured group had already moved further north, diverting Taliban from the area the troops intended to attack.
The raid was launched at 1am on 7 February. In just 20 minutes two waves of helicopters dropped more than 500 commandos 800 metres from enemy positions. Snipers fired at enemy forces fleeing the area. Troops recovered more than 400kg of raw opium in one drug factory and nearly 800kg of heroin in another.
John Hutton, the defence secretary, praised the British troops. He said the seizure of £50m of narcotics would "starve the Taliban of funding preventing the proliferation of drugs and terror in the UK".
The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2009