A roadside bomb

John A Silkstone

Mi General
MI.Net Member
Jul 11, 2004
The Blackhawk helicopter rose from the river bed, whipping up a hurricane of swirling dust. American medics crouched against the wind, turning their faces as the casualty evacuation team flew away. Two Afghan soldiers remained standing, faces to the gale, weeping inconsolably for a dying friend.

Forty-five minutes earlier, the pre-dawn grey had just begun to lighten when there was a fist-in-the-guts thump and a rolling pressure wave — and the first vehicle in the convoy moving into the village of Khan Khalay vanished under a white pall.

It was an armoured Humvee, American-designed and built, but one of 4,500 donated to the Afghan National Army. As the dust cleared it was visible, a twisted wreck, lying in a deep crater left by the roadside bomb.

Of the front of the Humvee, nothing remained. The radiator had landed in a field more than a hundred metres away, along with parts of the engine block. As the smoke cleared, one of the three occupants, a baby-faced, teenage soldier named Assamuddin, staggered, wild-eyed and shaking, back up the road; not only alive, but unhurt — physically, at least.

The other two were not so fortunate. From the wreckage the troops pulled an unconscious, mangled figure. His name was Zamin, but as American medics began desperate efforts to save him some of his Afghan comrades wept at what they saw. The devastating blast had deformed his body and made his face all but unrecognisable. His form had lost the rigidity of bone and muscle and moved, instead, like a bag of flour. The medics could only speculate on the number of bones that were broken. Somehow he clung to life, sucking in air and choking on blood.

In the dust by the roadside Specialist George Linares, 26, performed an emergency tracheotomy, cutting through Zamin’s throat to insert a tube directly to his lungs. While he did so another medic cradled Zamin’s face, the features gone, the skull moving under his hands.

From the wreckage a voice screamed and the Afghans worked to free a second survivor, Niamatullah. He had a deep wound to the back of his head and his legs writhed on the stretcher until he was tied to it.

The first rays of sunlight appeared over the dun hills of Zabul province. “Is there any word yet on casevac?” asked an American officer.

“Twenty mikes,” came the reply — another 20-minute wait. It was 5.20am; 27 minutes since the explosion.

As they waited, the two American medics pressed air from a hand pump directly into Zamin’s lungs. “One thousand, two thousand,” Specialist Linares counted. Somehow, Zamin’s pulse was holding. A few minutes later they carried him into the waiting belly of the helicopter — but as many of his comrades had already guessed, he would not survive.

The watchword these days is “partnering” — operations intended to be the proving ground for Afghanistan’s security forces, being built from scratch at a cost of billions of dollars. Yesterday it was the turn of three battalions of Afghan troops in Zabul province, out on a search operation called Eagle Claw along the Kabul-to-Kandahar highway. Alongside them were just a few dozen soldiers from 4th Platoon, Alpha Battery of 1/508th Parachute Infantry. For the Afghans, it was a significant change from the kind of operations that they were given even a year ago.

The focal point of Operation Eagle Claw was the provincial capital Qalat, whose population finds itself in the middle of the fight between the Afghan and Nato forces against the Taleban. Through local contacts they described to The Times a wretched situation, caught as they are between the hunt for insurgents and the vengeance of the hunted.

“People hate the Taleban and the Americans in my village,” said one source, who cannot be named for his own safety. “The Americans blame us for mining the land. The Taleban accuse us of spying for the Americans.”

The Taleban are local recruits, they said, drawn as much from the uneducated and unemployed as from any ideological reservoir. Villagers said that they had been impressed by recent US development work in Zabul, which has included building roads into outlying areas without previous access to the major highways. They said that an economic boom in Qalat, was attracting many people from outlying villages and boosting support for the local government.

There remains, however, an instinctive and implacable antipathy in the villages for foreign troops and a deep loathing of the search operations such as Eagle Claw that characterise the counter-insurgency.

As the injured soldiers were airlifted away, thoughts turned to Khan Khalay up ahead — and to whoever it was who had planted the bomb. A Taleban radio call intercepted in the seconds after the explosion confirmed the presence of a “triggerman” close by, watching and detonating the device by remote control.

The Afghan troops had moved ahead into the village and rounded up a group of men they regarded as suspicious. Now the men, nine of them, squatted on the ground. Some carried spades and all looked unhappy; one of them, a young man in a black shalwar kameez, shook visibly.

If the anonymous roadside bomb has given the insurgents a tactical advantage in Afghanistan and Iraq, Western technology is beginning to redress the balance. The US soldiers produced a box containing an instant explosive-residue testing kit, known as Exspray.

As the hands of the bemused men were swabbed, the chemical test indicated that all might not be the innocent civilians they insisted they were. Two young men, including the man in black, tested positive for TATP, a substance exclusive to explosives, as well as for nitrates used in explosives.

Now there was anger and more than a hint of vengeance in the air. The Afghan soldiers hauled the two men away from the main group, delivering kicks and blows none too discreetly as they bound their arms with their scarves. The Americans soldiers were deeply angry, too, and several stood over the suspects, cursing them. Their unit had lost a popular officer, Lieutenant Sal Corma, to a similar device a few weeks earlier.

One leant forward to draw his finger across his throat a few inches from the men’s faces before walking away in fury.
Chickensh*t Bastards!!! Killing men with ambush devices because they haven't got the balls to put their asses on the line!!!

Roadside This!!!!


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