AFGHANISTAN: British troops shelter from the controlled explosion of a Taliban device
Monday August 2,2010
By Cyril Dixon Have your say(2)
A crack squad of British special forces is hunting down more than 2,000 key Taliban commanders listed on a “wanted – dead or alive” list.
The elite Special Boat Service commandos are trawling southern Afghanistan with orders to capture the “Tier 1” insurgents, or kill them on sight.
Details of the secret mission emerged among tens of thousands of coalition forces’ documents published by the controversial WikiLeaks website.
The papers include accounts of how specials, including a unit known as Task Force 42, tracked down rebels to hideouts in the wilderness of Helmand province.
One, known as Janan, was then gunned down with two henchmen by an Apache AH-64 helicopter summoned to the scene by the ground troops. It also emerged yesterday that the British mother of the American military analyst who allegedly leaked the documents had been interrogated at her home in Wales by the FBI.
Susan Manning, 56, was left “severely distressed” after agents attached to the US Embassy in London paid a visit to her home in Haverfordwest, Dyfed. Her 22-year-old son Bradley, a US Army analyst who is half-American, has been charged with leaking defence documents through WikiLeaks.
Yesterday, her sister Sharon Staples told how Susan phoned her to hear her scream in panic down the phone: “They’re here, they’re here.” She said the FBI also visited her own home in nearby Milford Haven, adding: “As soon as I spoke to them and asked them not to stress her out, they backed down.”
The leaked papers give an extraordinary insight into Allied operations in Afghanistan but have infuriated military chiefs. Even before the November 2008 assassination of Janan – No 210 on the list – at a farmhouse in Nad-e-Ali, Task Force 42 had a run of successful strikes.
In the 10 days previously, the task force had killed No 1,473 – real name Mullah Ziauddin, code name Beethoven – near Lashkar Gah. Beethoven had orchestrated roadside bombings across the region and was also linked to the kidnap of 160 Afghan workers in a single month.
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It also emerged yesterday that the special forces operation has been able to call on the world’s biggest flying artillery gun, the Hercules AC-130.
Dubbed the Angel of Death, because of the shape its anti-missile flares make when fired, it too is being deployed against the top-level Taliban.
One special forces officer said: “The AC-130 really is the ultimate weapon. It is very accurate and simply vaporises the target and sends a powerful psychological message to the enemy.”
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates accused WikiLeaks of undermining coalition forces, in an interview with ABC News. He said: “There are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others – that’s not my arena.
“But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is ‘guilty’ on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.”
Meanwhile yesterday, the latest offensive against the Taliban, Operation Black Prince, was said to be progressing “very well”. Troops from the 1st Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment swarmed into the town of Saidabad under cover of darkness on Friday.
They then cleared compounds and established patrol bases in the area, and on Saturday seized large quantities of roadside bombs and bomb-making equipment.
An MoD spokesman said there had been limited contact with the insurgents, and no British casualties.