Taliban commander killed in strike


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The Independent Online

A senior Taliban commander has been killed in a strike by British attack helicopters, the Army said.

A spokesman said the death came in an operation in mid-December as forces sought to disrupt insurgent activity in the Kopak region of Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province.

Dubbed Operation Kapcha Shkar Kawel, or "Cobra Hunt", the mission saw more than 40 riflemen from D Company 5th Battalion the Rifles and Afghan security forces 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.

One of the fighters was tracked by an Apache gunship, and when he opened fire the Apache fired a Hellfire missile.

The 5 Rifles soldiers and the Afghan 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 coordinates between the infantry on the ground and support assets like the Apache.

The 30-year-old, from Nottingham, said: "An insurgent of this calibre is hard to find, and this has been a decisive blow to the insurgency here."

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 Afghan forces have handed over responsibility for security for Babaji to Afghan police and are turning their attention to the Kopak which has been regarded as an insurgent "safe haven".

Bombardier Joe Harris, 23, from Bude, is the tactical air controller for D Company and is responsible for the coordination 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 Chris Bisset, Army Air Corps, Officer Commanding the UK Apache Squadron based in Wattisham, Suffolk, said: "This is a good example of why the Apache attack helicopter is deployed to support troops on the ground in Afghanistan."