Apache strikes senior Taliban commander

A senior Tal­iban com­man­der has been killed by an Apache heli­copter strike dur­ing an oper­a­tion con­duct­ed by British and Afghan sol­diers to dis­rupt activ­i­ty in an insur­gent ’safe haven’ in Hel­mand province.

A Hellfire missile from a British Army Apache helicopter strikes an insurgent firing position [Picture: Sergeant Wes Calder, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
A Hell­fire mis­sile from a British Army Apache heli­copter strikes an insur­gent fir­ing posi­tion [Pic­ture: Sergeant Wes Calder, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Sol­diers from D Com­pa­ny, 5th Bat­tal­ion The Rifles (5 RIFLES), and their part­ners from the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF) have been tak­ing the fight to the insur­gents in the south of the Nahr‑e Saraj dis­trict for the last few weeks.

In the past two months, the com­bined forces have pushed the insur­gency out of the Baba­ji area of the dis­trict, help­ing the Afghan police to build new check­points and cut off routes used by insur­gents to infil­trate the area, and increase secu­ri­ty.

Now the British sol­diers and the ANSF have hand­ed over respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty for Baba­ji to Afghan police and are turn­ing their atten­tion to the Kopak region in the north of their area of oper­a­tions — an insur­gent ’safe haven’.

In Oper­a­tion KAPCHA SHKAR KAWEL, or ‘Cobra Hunt’, more than 40 Rifle­men and mem­bers of the ANSF set out to dis­rupt the insur­gency and gath­er intel­li­gence on Tal­iban lead­ers in the area.

After two hours Tal­iban fight­ers began to fire on the troops and were spot­ted in the act by intel­li­gence assets.

One of the fight­ers was tracked by a sup­port­ing Apache gun­ship, and when he opened fire on the patrol again the Apache was cleared to engage and fired a Hell­fire mis­sile at his posi­tion.

The 5 RIFLES sol­diers and the Afghan Nation­al Army troops were then able to fin­ish their mis­sion and gath­er cru­cial intel­li­gence.

It was lat­er dis­cov­ered that the insur­gent killed in the Apache strike was a senior com­man­der in the local area.

Cap­tain Ben Wor­ley is the D Com­pa­ny fire sup­port team com­man­der, who co-ordi­nates between the infantry on the ground and sup­port assets like the Apache. He said the strike will have dam­aged the insur­gent com­mand struc­ture in the area, adding:

“An insur­gent of this cal­i­bre is hard to find, and this has been a deci­sive blow to the insur­gency here. It was a great start to the oper­a­tion and will set the con­di­tions for the future of D Com­pa­ny in the Kopak area.”

Bom­bardier Joe Har­ris is the tac­ti­cal air con­troller for D Com­pa­ny and is respon­si­ble for the co-ordi­na­tion of air assets in the area. He said:

“We had tracked this guy for some time before final­ly get­ting into posi­tion to strike. It was a relief to final­ly get him as he had been fir­ing at our lads on the ground and could have caused casu­al­ties.”

Major Matt Bak­er, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing D Com­pa­ny, said:

“We clear­ly took them by sur­prise because after we hit them with the Apache they just did­n’t want to know any­more, and were in a state of shock for about 30 min­utes.

“The Afghan Police are now in a posi­tion to take lead respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in Baba­ji. I’ve been gen­uine­ly impressed by them and know they are ready to take over.”

Major Chris Bis­set, Army Air Corps (AAC), Offi­cer Com­mand­ing the UK Apache Squadron on Op HERRICK, said:

“This is a good exam­ple of why the Apache attack heli­copter is deployed to sup­port troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

“The British AAC Apach­es are flown by Army pilots who have a very good under­stand­ing of what the ground com­man­der is try­ing to achieve.

“This insur­gent had been attempt­ing to shoot at coali­tion troops over a sus­tained peri­od. By close­ly co-ordi­nat­ing with the ground forces, we were able to engage him in a safe area, which then allowed the troops on the ground to return to their pri­ma­ry job of reas­sur­ing and pro­tect­ing the local pop­u­la­tion.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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