Royal Anglians in Taliban attack

Hundreds of Royal Anglian soldiers marched for more than 10 miles - some carrying 80lbs of equipment and supplies - to spring a surprise attack on Taliban units in a remote part of Afghanistan.

By Mark Nicholls

Hundreds of Royal Anglian soldiers marched for more than 10 miles - some carrying 80lbs of equipment and supplies - to spring a surprise attack on Taliban units in a remote part of Afghanistan.

At dawn, the units moved in on Taliban positions from all sides, blocking their escape routes before the Afghan National Army drew them out. The Royal Anglians then engaged the Taliban and pushed them north and out of the Sangin Valley area.

Despite fierce opposition and fire fights A (Norfolk) and B (Suffolk) company of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment continued their advance up and down the Sangin Valley clearing the Juysalay area of Helmand Province.

The Taliban, which chose to stand their ground, were decisively defeated, although a few are believed to have escaped.

B Company commander, Major Mick Aston, said: “We are now holding the positions we've taken and are busy securing the area to allow the irrigation work to continue. We're also talking to local elders and tribal leaders to reassure them that we are working hard to provide better protection and increased stability for the area.”

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Major Dom Biddick, Officer Commanding A Company said: “We have shown the Taliban that we are not going to let them attack us without retaliating. More importantly we have shown the population that we are here to stay and to provide security for them.”

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, known as the 'Vikings', were joined by Afghan, Danish and Estonian troops, to clear Taliban from Jusyalay.

Up to 600 soldiers were involved in the initial stage of the ongoing UK-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation Ghartse Gar (Mountain Stag), to identify Taliban positions and clear them out of the Sangin Valley.

The military say the operation is designed to create safe conditions that will enable reconstruction work, such as the digging of essential irrigation ditches, to prevent crops - needed to sustain hundreds of villages - from drying up and decaying in the intense Afghan sun.

A Company had set off on the operation overnight and on foot from their base in Sangin to cover the 10-mile distance to their starting position.

Platoon commander Lieutenant Nick Denning said: “This is the first time that we've marched out like this on an operation rather than dismount from vehicles nearer the starting point. It was an important operation to clear out Taliban strongholds from where experienced fighters have been launching attacks on Afghan National Army patrol bases around Sangin, and preventing essential reconstruction and development taking place.”

Details of British or Taliban casualties from the operation have not been released by the Ministry of Defence.

Operation Ghartse Gar builds on last month's Operation Lastay Kulang, which saw Taliban fighters removed from the Upper Sangin Valley around the town of Putay.

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