Norwich-based soldiers involved in major attack
Ben KendallEast Anglian troops based in Kabul have spoken of their involvement in fighting the biggest Taliban attack on the Afghan capital in recent times - revealing how they were among the first on the scene as insurgents struck.Ben Kendall
East Anglian troops based in Kabul have spoken of their involvement in fighting the biggest Taliban attack on the Afghan capital in recent times - revealing how they were among the first on the scene as insurgents struck.
The 3rd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, nicknamed the Steelbacks, are currently based at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in the heart of the war torn city. It is their job to patrol streets in Kabul's central districts, including many international embassies, and provide a quick reaction force to any emergencies.
On Monday Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers launched what has been described as their largest assault on Kabul for several years. The Taliban said 20 of its fighters took part in a highly co-ordinated attack, centred on Karzai palace, which killed two civilans and three security personnel and wounded 71 others.
Platoon leader Lt Rhys Little said the Steelbacks, territorial soldiers recruited from areas including Norwich and Lowestoft, were immediately alerted and ordered to form part of the cordon around the battle zone.
They were originally tasked with securing the area at the centre of the gun battle but Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA) soon took over their duties.
The platoon then deployed to a holding location to provide back up in case local forces were overwhelmed. Later they were responsible for securing the main ISAF compound.
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Lt Little said: 'It was a complex attack involving both vehicle and person borne IEDs, as well as gunman. All ISAF forces, including 3rd Royal Anglian, reacted well and where ready to be tasked if necessary.
'The ANP and ANA reacted quickly and set up a cordon around the area.
'The soldiers from 3rd Royal Anglian all coped very well, remaining calm through out the situation and, although we were eager to provide a more active assistance, we appreciated that it was important for the Afghan National Security Forces to deal with it.'
The attacks began at about 10am when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in front of the Central Bank, next to the presidential palace, where Afghan government ministers were being sworn in.
Minutes later, two or three suicide bombers plus armed militants took over a multi-storey shopping centre overlooking the presidential palace, and attacked other government buildings and the five-star Serena Hotel.
While security forces lay siege to the shopping centre, a suicide bomber driving a van painted as an ambulance stopped outside another shopping centre nearby and detonated his explosives, officials said.
The Steelbacks have been in Kabul since August and have responded to a number of suicide bomb attacks as well as carrying out routine patrols. They are due to return to the UK in about a month.
Part of their job is providing military support in the city as Afghan-run forces increasingly take control of their own security.
Do you have a story about the armed forces? Contact Ben Kendall on 01603 772423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org