Al-Qa'ida arsenal blown up

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The Independent Online

Operation Snipe, the biggest British combat deployment since the Gulf, ended yesterday with a roaring explosion that sent a 1,000ft wave of flame and smoke over the mountains of south-east Afghanistan.

British Royal Marines blew up the largest al-Qa'ida and Taliban arsenal discovered during the Afghan war in a spectacular display. The controlled detonation was the biggest in peacetime by British forces and, senior officers said, sev-erely damaged the ability of the Islamic fighters to mount an offensive in this part of the country. The arsenal, including two T54 tanks, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, mortars and missiles, was discovered in a complex of four caves in the hills of Grangkhole Ghar in the province of Paktika.

Much of the weaponry was new and primed for immediate use. Some had been abandoned outside one of the caves.

The caves were opened up to the media yesterday. The steel door of one of them had been cut open. The tunnel showed an idyllic scene, painted in yellow, green and red, of a house, garden and a stream. Inside, it was akin to a surreal jumble sale, with layer after layer of arms and ammunition piled up to the 7ft-high ceiling, and stretching back 120 feet.