Weapons cache seizure a big blow to militants
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Canadian, British and Afghan forces have wrapped up a two-day operation that military officials say resulted in one of the largest finds of Taliban bomb-making materials in southern Afghanistan in recent months.
A Canadian military officer, speaking to reporters Monday night, said the operation, which took place last week and involved about 150 soldiers, had seriously disrupted a major Taliban bomb network in the districts of Khakrez and Shah Wali Kot, two insurgent strongholds about 25 miles north of the provincial capital.
"This operation was an unqualified success," said Maj. Marc Saint-Yves, deputy commander of 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group. "We captured significant [bomb-making] materials."
One Canadian soldier was killed during the operation, after his vehicle was struck by a bomb. Canada has lost 10 soldiers in since the beginning of December, all of them to bomb blasts.
Saint-Yves said British soldiers from Company K, 42 Royal Marines Commando were searching a compound when they discovered one small cache, which led to others.
Among the items found were 138 detonators and 38 pressure plate switches for setting off bombs; timing devices; several containers of homemade explosives; thousands of rounds of ammunition; a recoilless rifle; several other weapons; and a cache of medical supplies.
Saint-Yves said the seizure of the detonators was especially significant since "each one of which was a potential [bomb]."
The find was the largest cache of bomb-making materials found by the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment since the unit deployed to Kandahar province last year, Saint-Yves said.
The operation was the latest in a series of joint efforts by foreign soldiers and Afghan troops to keep pressure on the Taliban during the winter months, which the insurgents traditionally use to rearm and regroup.
Fighting in southern Afghanistan has worsened steadily in the last two years. The Pentagon is preparing to send up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next 18 months, most of whom are expected to be deployed in the south.