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Commandos blow up huge explosives dump in Helmand
19 July 2011

Royal Marines blew up an insurgents' explosives cache which could have made 150 home-made bombs during a strike at an enemy hideout in Afghanistan

THIS is the crater left when an elite force of Royal Marines blew up an insurgents’ secret ammunition dump in Afghanistan.

Sgt Dean Smith and Cpl Euan Anderson of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force admire their destructive work after one tonne of home-made explosives was sent to kingdom come in a controlled detonation following a lunge aimed at destroying a suspected enemy hideout.

The BRF – a specialist unit which often operates deep behind enemy lines or well in advance of the main body of 3 Commando Brigade – moved into the Barang district of eastern Helmand with armoured support from the Warthogs of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

Intelligence gathered by Task Force Helmand suggested that insurgents were using the area to plan attacks – so the BRF and Royal Scots were sent in to find the insurgents’ hideout and foil their plans.

As the troops entered the area where they suspected they would find the insurgents, they came under intense fire from numerous positions. With support from the Warthog group, the men beat back the enemy with superior firepower from precision munitions and snipers. 

When the gun battle subsided, the BRF moved forward to where the insurgents had been firing from and discovered what it was the enemy had been trying so desperately to protect.

Laid out on the ground like drying cement was a grey slab of material which the commandos immediately realised were homemade explosives – the main ‘ingredient’ used to make the Improvised Explosive Devices which have claimed so many casualties among the Allied forces in Afghanistan – as well as innocent Helmandis.

“This is one of the biggest single finds of home made explosives I’ve ever come across,” said Sgt Smith of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment, attached to the BRF.

“If you can imagine how much damage a 500lb bomb could do – there was enough here to make three of those. We estimate that it would probably have been used in smaller quantities though, to make up to 150 improvised explosive devices. No wonder the insurgents were not keen on us stumbling across it – the loss of it will be a major blow for them.”

Once the engineers had analysed the material and recorded the details of the find, the decision was taken to destroy the whole lot and prevent it being exploited by insurgents in the future. Sgt Smith and his team set up a controlled explosion to blow the cache without causing any other damage. 

The detonation left a sizeable crater in the ground – showing just how lethal it could have been had it been used by insurgents against a convoy, foot patrol or building.

The find is the second made by the BRF in the last fortnight. Earlier this month they uncovered a bomb making factory and an insurgent teaching facility in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand.

“It is possible that some of this HME could have been intended for that factory we disrupted and destroyed,” said Maj Nick Foster, Officer Commanding BRF.

“Making two significant finds in successive weeks is extremely satisfying and I’m proud of the whole team. It goes to show that targeted operations, led by good intelligence and executed by well trained and motivated Afghan troops working alongside us are having a huge impact on the insurgents’ ability to operate.”