Canadian Soldiers Seize $3m In Opium
by Ethan Baron, The Ottawa Citizen, (15 Jul 2006) Ottawa Citizen Afghanistan
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Canadian soldiers have confiscated an estimated $3 million in opium from a mud-walled Taliban compound after an outnumbered Canadian reconnaissance patrol held off more than two dozen fighters until additional firepower arrived.
"It confirms what we knew but hadn't seen -- the physical evidence that there is a direct connection between Taliban activities and the drug trade here," said Lt.-Col. Ian Hope, commander of the Canadian battle group in southern Afghanistan.
"The Taliban is funded in large part by the opium trade."
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, which is refined into heroin.
In the 30-minute firefight Thursday, one Canadian soldier survived a bullet to the back when the slug hit the armour plate in his flak vest.
Thursday's engagement was followed yesterday by more fighting for Canadian troops, who engaged twice with the Taliban in Helmand province, but suffered no casualties.
After Thursday's battle, troops found five dead Taliban, but believe many more were killed.
"The enemy is very good at policing up their own battlefield," said Capt. Jon Hamilton, who led the reconnaissance mission.
"They'll pick up their own dead."
A search of the Taliban compound turned up sacks of opium paste, totalling more than 70 kilograms, an RPG ( rocket-propelled grenade ) launcher, four rockets, an AK-47 and ammunition, a passport and documents.
"We did achieve some element of surprise," Capt. Hamilton said.
"If they knew we were coming, they probably wouldn't have left that stuff out."