Operation thwarts construction of thousands of IEDs
Troops from the Quebec-based Royal 22nd Regiment and their Afghan army allies "hit the jackpot" in a major combat operation that ended Sunday, discovering four factories used by the Taliban to make improvised explosive devices about 17 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.
"The quality of stuff we took was absolutely impressive. We have taken away their capacity to make thousands of IEDs," said the lead planner of the mission, Lt.-Col. Mike Patrick. He described the operation as the most successful carried out so far this year in Kandahar.
As well as seizing suicide bomber vests and large quantities of explosive nitrates and accelerants, the troops found three .50-calibre Russian heavy machine-guns, two rocket launchers, thousands of metres of commercial grade detonation cord and large quantities of ball bearings that can cause extreme injuries when packed into IEDs.
"It was one of those serendipitous moments when we thought we would find one thing and hoped for another and found it. Our success in this operation was a 10," the chief of operations for Canada's Task Force Afghanistan said.
"It was the difference between a mom and pop operation and the Mafia. It was a small assembly line. Mr. Ford would have been proud."
However, "regrettably," the four-day operation resulted in the 125th death of a Canadian soldier since the federal government first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002, Patrick said. Pte. Sébastien Courcy was killed Thursday morning when he stepped on an explosive that may have been an old Soviet anti-personnel mine while manning an observation post on a mountain overlooking the battlefield. The blast at the top of Salavat Ghar was probably not fatal, but it caused Courcy to fall to his death.
Another Canadian was injured later in the operation when he came upon "a booby trap," Patrick said. The soldier's wounds were not considered serious, he said.
The bomb factories that were found during the operation were as small as a tent and as large as a compound and were sophisticated enough to make a variety of explosives.
"It was like one-stop shopping for bombs," he said.
A number of insurgents were killed during the operation and some others were taken prisoner by Canadian troops, Patrick said.
The operation began late Wednesday with a feint toward the town of Salavat by a company of soldiers from the U.S. army's 2nd battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment operating under Canadian command and by Leopard tanks from the Alberta-based Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) which made a show of force and helped clear the way of IEDs.
The main attack a few kilometres away on Nakhoney followed the next day. It involved an air assault by about 250 Van Doos who were flown into battle by two waves of mostly Canadian helicopters. Other ground elements then moved in to complete the encirclement of the town which has about 2,000 residents.
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