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British and Afghan troops launch dawn raid in Helmand

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A dawn raid by British and Afghan troops in Helmand province has struck a blow at the insurgency in Afghanistan.

The elite Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) joined forces with the Warthog Group to strike at an insurgent headquarters in the north of Task Force Helmand’s area of operations. A number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), some ordnance, and several weapons were recovered in the operation.

Local insurgents had been targeting British and American troop bases to the north of the bustling city of Gereshk and laying IEDs on the vital road between Gereshk, Sangin and the Helmand power plant at the Kajaki Dam.

Intelligence suggested that the insurgents believed they were safe because their headquarters were on the far side of a large canal.

But the BRF, comprising soldiers from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, swept in on their position in a two-pronged assault with the Warthog Group.

The 90-strong BRF caught the insurgents off guard in a helicopter-borne dawn assault on suspect compounds on the far side of the canal, as the Warthog armoured vehicles, which can carry troops into the heart of battle, stormed in to stamp out an insurgent attempt to rally to attack the BRF from the near side of the canal.

A third group of insurgents attempted to reach a position on the high ground to target the British troops, but Warrior armoured vehicles from the Armoured Infantry Platoon, manned by troops from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3 YORKS), thundered in to provide overwatch for the BRF assault and the Taliban scouts fled.

While soldiers secured the perimeter the BRF and Royal Engineer Search Teams discovered a Taliban weapons cache, including a Dragunov sniper rifle - a ‘prestige’ weapon to insurgents.

The troops also found an AK-47 machine gun, 29 grenades, some rocket-propelled grenade rounds, mortars, ammunition, and a haul of IED-making equipment, including 11 low-metal-content pressure plates designed to be difficult to detect in the ground.

Troops from the Afghan National Army that partner the BRF on all operations spoke to local civilians to gather information on the insurgency.

The most dangerous time in the operation came during the extraction, as the BRF troops had to be recovered back over the canal - over a 21-metre-wide gap.

Soldiers from the Pioneer Platoon of 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment quickly deployed an infantry assault bridge but the Taliban spotted the bridge being deployed and tried to move into position to attack exposed troops. However, they were again forced back by the 3 YORKS Warrior platoon and a mix of US Cobra gunships and UK Apache helicopters.

Major Chris Wildman, Officer Commanding the Warthog Squadron, said:

This was the first time Task Force Helmand had done an operation of this type on this scale before.

Having the Warrior Platoon and the Pioneer Platoon under command was a new concept and worked exceptionally well. The Pioneer Platoon got the bridge set in record time and the 3 YORKS boys were outstanding in keeping the Taliban away from the bridge.

BRF troop leader Captain Nicholas Garland said:

Yet again the BRF and Warthog Group were able to remove large quantities of lethal weapons from the Taliban in what would normally be considered a battle-group-level operation.

The speed at which the bridge went in was astonishing, far quicker than they managed at rehearsals and a really outstanding effort from the infantry.

Over 12 different cap badges were involved in this rapid strike into what the Taliban considered a safe haven, with the troops leaving the locals without a single shot being fired.