News: Taliban use mosque to hide weapons cache
By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jeremy L. Wood, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan Public Affairs
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers, partnered with U.S. Special Operations Forces, uncovered multiple weapons caches in eastern Zabul province July 31.
The Afghan-led force went to several areas in Naw Bahar District after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and found three weapons caches, the largest of which was found in the district mosque.
During the combined force’s search, they encountered sporadic small arms and automatic machine gun fire from insurgents. A coalition force spokesperson said the combined force engaged the enemy resulting in one enemy killed.
The first cache discovered during a search of several district buildings consisted of improvised explosive device materials and weapons buried in multiple locations throughout a compound. Afterward, on-scene questioning of a building owner resulted in the Afghan National Police detaining and questioning a suspected Taliban leader.
As the search continued through a series of compounds, the partnered force found a second cache buried in a walled area consisting of extensive IED materials, weapons, and load bearing equipment. All material from this second cache was moved to the location of the first cache found and destroyed in-place with no collateral damage or injury to civilians.
Approximately two hours after the initial clearing operations began; the largest cache of the day was discovered in the village mosque by Afghan National Security Forces who conducted the search. Coalition forces provided security outside the mosque while their ANSF counterparts searched inside.
The cache found in the mosque in Naw Bahar district consisted of a rocket-propelled grenade, 100 rounds of 7.62 mm machine gun ammunition, 12 load-bearing military chest harnesses, 40 pounds of homemade explosive materials, 50 pounds of aluminum powder, 3,000 feet of detonation cord, two tactical vests, and various medical supplies and tactical clothing, including cold weather gear and two tactical packs.
“Today’s find is a significant discovery,” said Maj. Brandon Bissell, a Coalition forces spokesperson. “Finding and identifying weapons caches like this not only saves lives, but highlights the fact that insurgents have no regard for Islamic values or the safety of their fellow citizens in Naw Bahar.
“This isn’t the first time the Taliban has used protected religious structures to hide both weapons and IED material to support their insurgent operations,” he added.
Out of respect to mosque cultural sensitivities and in making the area safe, the Afghan ground forces removed and transported the weapons cache to an open area outside the village for destruction. In addition to the safe destruction of the caches, the ANP arrested four persons of interest for further questioning.
“The elimination of IEDs is one of the main efforts by Afghan and Coalition forces,” said Bissell. “We will continue to aggressively pursue those who intend to bring harm to the people of Afghanistan, it’s government, and the International Security Assistance Force.”