Posts Tagged ‘IED’
Their faces concealed with chequered scarves, the Taliban assassins found Haji Zahir Arian sitting on cushions in the living room of a friend’s house. They wasted no time in striking a blow against peace.
The first hitman to enter the small room raised his rifle and loosed off four rounds as Arian, the deputy head of the peace council in Helmand province, lifted his arms to shield himself.
One of the bullets grazed the 59-year-old’s underarm, striking a wall behind him. The other three rounds thudded into his chest, causing his body to convulse against the wall before it slid to the floor.
The Taliban fled, leaving Arian’s friend, Najibullah Popal, trembling with fear as he watched the body ooze blood into the cushions.
Afghan policemen guarding a checkpoint just 100 yards away failed to give chase as the gunmen sped off in a black Toyota Corolla. “Who killed him?” asked Ghulam Farooq, a colleague and close friend of Arian whose uncle was strangled by the Taliban two months ago. “The security forces killed him, by failing to protect him.”
The assassination of Arian on April 23 is one of several attacks in which the Taliban have singled out “soft targets” inside Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital, in recent months.
The killings are aimed at destabilising the town as British troops prepare formally to transfer control to Afghan security forces next month. The handover marks the beginning of the end of British and American military engagement in Helmand. Read the rest of this entry »
When Mohammad Ehsar, 14, heard that American soldiers had killed his teacher during a military operation, all he could think about was revenge.
The soldiers raided the home of cleric Mawlawi Hazrat Muhammad last September. Muhammad, who was believed to be organising attacks on Nato targets, was shot. Ehsar was told that the Americans also slit his throat.
The youngster revered Muhammad, the chief cleric at his madrasah (religious school), who made clothes for poor pupils and brought food from his home.
On the night he learnt of his teacher’s death, Ehsar and five fellow pupils slipped out of their madrasah carrying two crudely made bombs wrapped in shawls.
They marched for two hours until they reached a dirt track. As the rest of the group kept watch, Ehsar dug the bombs into the earth with a shovel and unravelled some wires that would connect them to a motorcycle battery hidden on the far side of a nearby hill.
His job complete, Ehsar and two of his companions returned to the madrasah. The other boys spent the night lying in wait. At dawn, as an American convoy rumbled past, they connected the wires to the battery to detonate their bombs.
One of these improvised explosive devices (IEDs) turned out to be useless but the other exploded, tearing through the armoured chassis of the second vehicle in the convoy.
“It felt good to know we had killed the infidels,” Ehsar said. “It felt good to take revenge.”
Despite an edict banning the recruitment of children, Taliban commanders use boys as mine-layers, scouts and even suicide bombers, according to human rights groups.
Rachel Reid, of Human Rights Watch, said: “They are brainwashing young boys to be suicide bombers and forcing kids to lay mines, knowing that their opponents have higher regard for the laws of war than they do.”
Last year, Ehsar’s father, who ekes out a living growing vegetables, sent his son to a madrasah in Ghazni province’s notoriously volatile Andar district. He wanted him to receive an Islamic education and to learn the way of jihad (holy war). Read the rest of this entry »
The British Army’s forward operating base at Wishtan — known as the Devil’s Playground because of the high number of casualties suffered there — is one of those abandoned by US marines. At the height of the Taliban’s onslaught, the British saw a man killed or wounded on one in every three patrols into the surrounding maze of alleyways.
It was in Wishtan that a “daisy chain” of IEDs killed five riflemen from the 2nd Battalion the Rifles last year — the highest loss of life for the British Army in a single incident since the war began.
My younger brother Jim, a second lieutenant, was also wounded on his way to replace the injured platoon commander.
Three months later, I walked along Pharmacy Road, which was described as the most hazardous route on earth because so many people had died clearing it.
The road is now littered with IEDs again and the British men who fought in Wishtan are wondering whether the loss of friends and comrades was futile.
“Success has to be measured in small units — opening up the bazaar, being able to walk down Pharmacy Road,” said a British veteran. “We sacrificed a lot of men on that road to keep that base open.”
The platoon was only 200 yards from its base when Lieutenant Robert Kelly, the 29-year-old son of a US Marine Corps general, hauled himself out of an irrigation ditch and on to a Taliban mine buried in the mud bank.
The force of the blast hurled him back into the ditch, slicing off both his legs above the knees. The men nearest the explosion — Corporal Travis Buckholz and Corporal Vatividad Silva — grabbed his body armour and dragged him out of the water.
Buckholz, 21, pulled out a tourniquet to stem the blood and rolled his commanding officer over. But when he saw the lieutenant’s face he stopped still with the tourniquet clenched in his hand.
“I knew when I saw it there was nothing we could do for him. Half his face was missing,” Buckholz said.
“When we got back to base it was like someone had stolen the life out of everyone. All you could see were pale faces and blank looks. I sat on the stairs and fixed my eyes on one spot for hours.”
Death has become an all too frequent reality for American marines fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand, just as it was for British forces before them. The British suffered a third of all their Afghan war casualties in this valley labyrinth of canals, tree-lines and fields of opium and corn.
When the men of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines arrived their commanders could not understand how the British had failed to pacify Sangin, where inter-tribal feuds, the opium trade and a vicious insurgency have combined to make the district the most dangerous for Nato troops in Afghanistan.
The British strategy was privately criticised. The Americans believed an undermanned British force had become hamstrung by the large number of patrol bases they were maintaining in a ring around the centre of the district.
No sooner had they assumed command at the start of October than they began to tear down more than half of the 22 bases that 106 British soldiers had died defending. Hundreds more were wounded, many so severely that their lives would never be the same again. The Americans abandoned some of the terrain that the British had clung to at grave cost and directed their extra manpower at other areas that had not been penetrated before.
But the marines are already paying a devastating price for this early aggression. Read the rest of this entry »
Two Taliban fighters crept into the middle of a dirt road near Kandahar city. Unaware that an American spy plane had spotted them, they began to dig a hole as the sun beat down on their heads.
American soldiers at Forward Operating Base Wilson little more than a mile away watched the drone’s grainy video feed on a large flatscreen monitor as the insurgents planted an improvised explosive device (IED) in the hole.
Soon an A-10 tankbuster growled overhead. The aircraft dropped a laser-guided bomb that thudded into the ground and exploded with a loud crump as earth, smoke and rocks mushroomed into the air.
As the cloud settled and the video feed flickered back into life, soldiers positioned 300 yards down the road pushed out a patrol to look for the bodies.
American ground commanders in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar province are hellbent on eradicating the IED teams, which have killed and wounded dozens of troops since the end of August.
Ridding the districts surrounding Kandahar city of insurgents is the key objective for the commanding officer of 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment (1-75) whose men have the task of seizing land in Zhari, a district to the west of the city.
Colonel Thomas McFayden is determined to kill as many fighters as possible before they withdraw for the winter to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. Governance, the Americans believe, can wait for now.
McFayden’s men say they have wiped out scores of Taliban in the past month since launching operations to flush the militants from Zhari.
They rarely find the bodies. The Taliban are quick to remove their dead from the battlefield, making it difficult to verify how successful the targeted killing campaign has been.
A reminder of how brutally effective the Taliban’s tactics can be came last Monday.
American soldiers from Chaos Company, stationed at a patrol base close to Highway One, the main road that bisects Kandahar province, were busy loading a trailer with rubbish to take back to the forward operating base.
As the soldiers milled around in the courtyard of the compound, an ear-piercing explosion shook the ground. I turned to face the noise and saw an Afghan soldier cartwheeling through the air in a ball of smoke and dust before disappearing behind a wall. Read the rest of this entry »