Operation Black Prince

Sunday Telegraph:

Bomb disposal teams slowly cleared the main road due south to the town as commanders in Afghanistan said it might take a week to make safe the route to the insurgents' haven.

After 24 hours, 600 yards of the two-mile long road from the edge of British controlled territory had been cleared.

Foot patrols pushed down flanks of the road from Patrol Base Takhta and leapfrogged from compound to compound as they covered the engineers labouring in heat nearing 50 degrees Celsius.

Taliban fighters who had not attacked on the first day, began firing at the base from four separate compounds on Saturday, prompting British soldiers to fire back using sniper rifles and eventually a Javelin missile.

Troops airlifted south of the town before dawn on Friday morning said they were continuing to meet little resistance.

Major Andy Garner, officer in charge of Corunna Company, 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, said: "This sort of harassing fire is what we were expecting. I expect it will continue until we get into the town, when perhaps they will change their tactics."

Saidabad is considered to be the last town of the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand Province outside Afghan government control, and has become a haven for up to 180 fighters.

Operation Tor Shezada, or Black Prince, aims to push the militants from the irrigated green zone into the desert and kill or capture their commanders.

Bomb disposal engineers found several bombs on the main road to Saidabad in the first 24 hours, including a 25-kilogram bomb targeting armoured vehicles which had been dug in for at least six weeks just 150 yards from Patrol Base Takhta.

Sapper Scott Jones, 19, of 101 Engineer Regiment, who found the bomb while searching on foot, said: "It was just different coloured earth and it looked a bit weird."

Eleven bombs were found south of the town on the first day.

While troops were able to patrol more freely across the farmland on either side of the road bomb disposal engineers made cautious progress along the route despite working from dusk to dawn.

The town may have been seeded with defensive belts of bombs, said commanders.

One of the troops stepped on a pressure plate, but only the detonator exploded. The Taliban have created a lot of work for themselves and for the combat engineers who defuse the bombs. They are heading toward the one remaining Taliban controlled village, Sayedabad, near Marjah.

There is more on the operation here.


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