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Marines Find Taliban Weapons Ready For Use

Royal Marines from X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Group, enter an abandoned compound in northern Helmand province
A cache of explosive devices discovered during a search
A Royal Marine from X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, searches for enemy munitions in an old Russian trench

During a recent routine search operation deep into enemy territory Royal Marines discovered a stash of deadly Taliban weapons and improvised explosive devices ready for use against British and Afghan troops.

The operation took place in the Sangin area of northern Helmand province and saw the men of X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Group, who are normally based in Arbroath in Scotland, start the day with breakfast at 0300 hrs before leaving Forward Operating Base (FOB) Nolay to get to their objective area before first light.

Marching for several hours over rough and stony ground with heavy packs and equipment, including three litres of water each, necessary for a mission they expected to last some 12 hours in temperatures in the high 20s, the Marines reached the objective area still in complete darkness.

At dawn, 4 and 5 Troop started to methodically move in support of each other, searching apparently abandoned compounds. One by one they quickly moved through the compounds searching as they went, and soon found the first substantial haul. Marine Douglas Geddes found three complete devices in a sack on a shelf in a compound. He said:

"I thought straight away that something was dodgy - it was sealed in plastic and after another look I could see that there was an anti-personnel mine on the top. It was then I realised it was a deadly IED [improvised explosive device]."

Section Commander, Corporal Wayne Harrison, said:

"The package was obviously ready to be taken for use against ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces in the Sangin area - all too often though it is the Afghan National Security Forces and civilians who are the victims. The fact that there was no attempt to conceal the devices proves they were ready to be used; potentially they could have been on the ground the very next day."

The IEDs were then destroyed by controlled explosion and the patrol moved on.

After several hours there was another find near an old Russian trench system. Marine David Young said:

"I thought it was going to be an old Russian mine, but it turned out to have been a weapon - a .303 rifle, probably hidden by the enemy for future use. I was especially pleased as now we have it instead of enemy forces.

"After finding that, it was only a few metres away that I found a 105mm shell packed with C-4 explosives - potentially to be used as a sizeable IED. Again, I'm happy as every find is a weapon that can't be used on us or the Afghan people."

Section Commander, Corporal Alex Tingle, said:

"The enemy have been hiding weapons and explosives for many years in this area and to find anything is always a plus and most importantly it gives the lads confidence in their own ability."

At the same time, further news of another find of electrical components for making IEDs, including pressure-plates used to activate the devices, was announced over the radio. This added to a healthy tally of potentially deadly devices and components seized during the long and arduous patrol.

The patrol continued back to the FOB to be greeted with cold bottles of water which were gratefully received and, after a head count and a quick debrief, the men and women continued back to their accommodation to get ready for their next patrol.

Captain Jamie Jamison, Second-in-Command (2IC) of the Company, said:

"This was typical of the sort of patrol X-Ray Company and 45 Commando have been doing day-in, day-out here in the Sangin area. It was a challenging patrol over some tough ground and carrying a lot of kit and the lads all performed well.

"The devices we destroyed were obviously ready to be deployed and would have had catastrophic effect had they been used; to have got rid of them is a great result - no doubt we saved some lives, or others from life-changing injury.

The Taliban know that they cannot match us in a fight and we are able to push further and further out from the FOB now. They have had to resort to the cowardly use of IEDs, which are completely indiscriminate and target local men, women and children as much as us or the Afghan National Security Forces."

45 Commando are due to return to the UK from their six-month deployment to Afghanistan in April 2009. This has been a difficult deployment with several members of the company losing their lives. Capt Jamison continued:

"It's been a very hard tour for all of X-Ray Company, but we know that we are improving the security of South Sangin. It is very humbling as the X-Ray Company 2IC to see how the men deal with, not only the considerable physical challenges, but also the very real mental anxiety of operating in the conditions which Afghanistan presents.

"The bravery and professionalism shown on a daily basis by the men of X-Ray Company and 45 Commando is of the highest order. We should all be proud of the assistance we are providing the people of Afghanistan and the contribution we are making to the security of the UK."