Life returns to strategic settlement in Helmand province after largest ever clearance of Taliban mines
Sunday 13 March 2011
British troops have completed the largest clearance of improvised explosive devices (IED) in Afghanistan, liberating a strategic village considered a no-go area until recently.
Paratroopers supported by 80 bomb disposal specialists have cleared Char Coucha in Helmand province, scene of intense fighting throughout last year. Numbers of IED had been laid by Taliban forces to prevent British units seizing control of the settlement.
The Ministry of Defence described the operation as the “biggest-scale high-risk IED clearance of an entire village” during the Afghan conflict.
More than 40 families have already returned following a painstaking fingertip search of the village, which included combing through partially destroyed compounds overgrown with vegetation up to 6ft high. In total, 75 compounds plus miles of tracks and alleyways were searched and cleared.
Lieutenant colonel Andrew Harrison of 2 Para said: “Char Coucha was a deserted ghost town, choked of life by the insidious threat of IEDs. Children are now playing in its streets and families returning.”
One of the village’s religious elders, Haji Khan Agha, said: “It is a great achievement.”