BRAVE soldiers from South Yorkshire spearheaded a raid on a village booby-trapped with bombs – and seized the biggest haul of Taliban explosives discovered in Helmand this year, writes Richard Marsden in Afghanistan.
Members of Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment found 300 kg of fertiliser-based explosive ready to be made into devices to kill troops or civilians.
More than 100 soldiers from the battalion led the raid at Shele Kalay, in the Malgir area of Helmand, which was part of a five-day operation.
The soldiers from 3 Yorks were working with 200 more Afghan, American and Danish troops.
Significant discoveries of explosives included 200kg in a pick-up truck parked in a ditch and a further 100kg from devices at a compound raided by troops.
Sergeant Stewart Watts, aged 29, of Gleadless, Sheffield, serving with Corunna Company 3 Yorks, was among soldiers involved.
Sgt Watts said: “We found the vehicle by chance - it was in an irrigation ditch off one of the routes through the village.
“There was a device in front of the vehicle and more behind, to deter us from going near. We had to call the bomb disposal team to make the area safe before we could get to the pick-up truck.”
Corporal Lee Marshall, 23, from Barnsley, who was also involved in the attack: “We later went into a compound which of interest to international forces.
“There was an IED with pressure plate in the doorway.
“We marked the bomb out and carried on inside where there were four more devices containing 100 kg of explosives.”
The discovery at Shele Kalay was made after soldiers had to pick their way carefully around the village due to a large number of improvised explosive devices.
Commanders believe the bombs were planted to make it difficult for the village to be raided by international forces.
But once soldiers found safe routes they carried out searches of compounds acting on intelligence that the area was being used for making bombs.
The previous largest seizure of Taliban explosives in Helmand this year was a 250kg find in the Hyderabad area in May.
Task Force Helmand said the Shele Kalay raid had recovered the largest amount of explosives in a single operation in Helmand so far this year.
Lt Col Zac Stenning, commanding officer of 3 Yorks and who was on the ground with his soldiers at Shelley Kalay, said: “The operation was truly multinational, incorporating not only British and Afghan soldiers, but involving US and Danish troops too - each element was responsible for a critical part of the plan.
“Whether it be protecting troops on the ground, ensuring that people could cross large obstacles or providing a safe way to get around the deadly IEDs, each nation performed excellently. It was especially humbling to see the Afghan troops work tirelessly despite observing Ramandan. This really impressed the ISAF soldiers who took heart from their efforts.”