Saturday, May 23, 2009

OEF Summary, May 23, 2009: Troops Kill 60 Militants, Seize Massive Drug Cache in Helmand

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 23, 2009 -- Afghan national army commandos of the 205th Corps, assisted by coalition forces, killed 60 militants and seized the single-largest drug cache by Afghan-led forces in Afghanistan to date during a four-day operation in the city of Marjeh, Nad Ali District, Helmand province.

A total of 60 militants were eliminated as they mounted an ineffective and uncoordinated defense against friendly forces.

In preparation to destroying the seized illicit materials, Afghan and coalition forces removed all friendly elements from the Loy Cherah Bazaar in the middle of the night, on May 22.

"The commandos and their coalition partners relentlessly penetrated an area militants and criminals considered a safe-haven, again proving they will not be denied access to any area in this country," said US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman, Col. Greg Julian. "The four-day operation severely disrupted one of the key militant and criminal operations and narcotics hubs in southern Afghanistan."

With the area cordoned off, precision air strikes destroyed the narcotics, bomb-making materials, weapons and munitions discovered during the operation. The air strikes targeted specific militant buildings used as command nodes and drug-making facilities in which attacks against Afghan and coalition forces were coordinated.

An unmanned aerial vehicle flying over the site is observing the scene to detect any attempts by militants and criminals to change the conditions to falsely claim civilian casualties.

The combined total of narcotics seized during this operation was 92,271 kilograms, including 16,850 kilograms of black tar opium, 38 kilograms of processed morphine, 201 kilograms of processed heroin, 182 kilograms of hashish and 75,000 kilograms of poppy seeds.

The combined forces also seized an unprecedented amount of heroin-processing materials, including 490 gallons of acidic anhydride, 24,000 kilograms ammonium chloride, 1,450 kilograms of activated charcoal and 17,600 kilograms of soda ash.

In addition to narcotics, the Afghan and coalition forces found large amounts of bomb-making materials in various buildings within the bazaar. The combined forces discovered 27,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 700 gallons of diesel fuel, six pressure plate triggers, three improvised explosive device battery systems and seven 40 lb jugs of homemade explosive material prepared for detonation.

The combined elements continued to find weapons throughout the bazaar, confirming that Marjeh has been a hub of multiple types of militant and criminal activity. They found 44 blocks of military-grade explosives and various types of mortars, blasting caps and detonation cord. The friendly forces also found 120 ammunition vests, which are used by militants to carry bullets and are also modified into suicide bomber vests.

"The commandos thoroughly demolished a vital operational, logistical and financial hub for the enemy and completed this mission victorious as the militants and criminals crawled away defeated and operationally-neutered," said Ministry of Defense spokesperson, Maj. Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

(Report from a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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