AUSTRALIAN, US and Afghan National Army troops have uncovered the largest stockpile of explosives and ammunition found in Oruzgan province in recent years, including more than five tonnes of ammonium nitrate used for bomb-making.
Australian commanders believe the major operation last Sunday by a coalition force operating in a town east of Tarin Kowt, near the border with Zabol province, will severely disrupt the manufacture of improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, planted by insurgents.
A series of recent operations in Oruzgan by Australian special forces working alongside Afghan forces appear to have slowed the rising incidence of IED attacks, which have characterised Taliban operations in other parts of the country.
IEDs are by far the largest cause of civilian and coalition casualties, accounting for more than 100 deaths in recent weeks, including 22 Afghan civilians in a single blast earlier this week.
Sunday's daylight raid uncovered 5.3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate as well as 10,000 rounds of ammunition, 39 rocket-propelled grenades, a grenade launcher and automatic weapons, as well as other bomb-making equipment.
The bomb-making factories and weapons caches were unguarded and no insurgents were arrested as a result of the raid.
The deputy chief of joint operations command, Air Vice Marshal Greg Evans, told The Australian yesterday the uncovering of the cache was a key breakthrough in disrupting IED manufacture across the southern and eastern parts of Oruzgan province.
"The 5.3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate could have built several hundred Improvised Explosive Devices," he said.
"It's the biggest find any of us can remember in the last 18 months. We were surprised by the size of it. It is a significant volume of material to be found in one location, and its discovery and destruction will disrupt the ongoing roadside bomb emplacement campaign by the Taliban insurgents."
Air Vice Marshal Evans said much of the ammunition and explosives recovered in the raid appeared to be Soviet-era munitions, but some weapons may have filtered across more recently from Iran and Pakistan.
Source: The Australian