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Politics

Suicide blast kills British soldier in Afghanistan

November 7 2013

A British soldier was killed in a suicide blast while on patrol in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said. The soldier from the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Staffords) died from an explosion during a vehicle-borne suicide attack, the MoD said. He was taking part in a patrol in the Kamparak area, 40km north east of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, on Tuesday. The death takes to 446 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Next of kin have been informed. Lieutenant Colonel Hywel Lewis, the spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “He commanded great respect throughout his regiment. “Our prayers and thoughts are with his family at this extremely difficult time.”

Taliban kills 16 pro-government fighters in Afghanistan

February 12 2018

The Taliban has killed 16 pro-government militia fighters in an attack over the weekend in southern Helmand province, officials confirmed.The attackers are believed to have targeted a checkpoint belonging to pro-government forces in the Gareshk district.Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed an investigation is under way.Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media. He said two Taliban fighters involved in the attack had managed to escape, confiscating all ammunition from pro-government fighters.

News

Fiona Ross making a difference in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

March 23 2011

A Saline woman is one of three British army medics in Afghanistan who also teach their skills to local nurses. The work Lance Corporal Fiona Ross (22) is under-taking along with Captain Robert Garbett from Shrewsbury and Private Megan Paynter from Lowestoft in the Helmand Province will form the basis of a pioneering new ambulance service. For reservist Fiona this is her second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She has just helped train five nurses from Lashkar Gah, where the nearest hospital is a 15-minute drive away, after a nine-day course to qualify as "patient transfer specialists." The initiative has been organised by Helmand's directorate of health in conjunction with the UK-led Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team. Army Medical Services snowboarding champion Fiona said, "The range of patients we deal with is large. "We provide care for primary health care patients, the type who would be seen at a GP's surgery at home. "We also care for injured Afghan civilians before they are transferred to local hospitals, and then there are the odd cuts and scrapes that happen around the camp."

Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Angus & The Mearns

RM Condor marines go to Helmand Province

March 16 2011

The early hours of this morning saw the latest Arbroath exodus of Royal Marines from RM Condor bound for the Afghanistan front line. Some 600 personnel are to be involved in the fourth deployment of Condor personnel to the country. Their latest role will be to provide security in support of the Afghan government as part of a 9500-strong UK section of NATO forces. For six months the marines will be based at Nad-e-Ali in Helmand province-for some their first experience of the conflict area. Their duties will include patrolling, protecting reconstruction teams, supporting the Afghan national army and police and denying the insurgents freedom of movement. This tour is a continuation of the work started by Condor personnel in 2002 when marines led the first military operation as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Further deployments took place in 2006 and 2008. The 45 Commando unit is part of 3 Commando Brigade and is made up of companies Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu, Logistics and Headquarters, in addition to an artillery unit, 7 Battery 29 Commando RA. In Afghanistan, they will join counterparts from the Royal Regiment of Scotland and crews from RAF Lossiemouth. Many from the Arbroath unit have mobilised and the rest will leave Angus by the start of next week.

Scotland

Three Royal Highland Fusiliers killed in Afghanistan

May 1 2013

Three Royal Regiment of Scotland soldiers have been killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan. The soldiers, from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, were on a routine patrol when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand Province, on Tuesday. They received immediate medical attention and were evacuated by air to the Military Hospital at Camp Bastion but could not be saved, the MOD said. Their next of kin have been informed. Major Richard Morgan, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "It is with deep sadness that I must confirm that three soldiers from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, have died after theirvehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province. "Their deaths come as a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to their family and friends at this difficult time." A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the incident underlines the continued danger faced by soldiers as they prepare to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014. "Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones in this incident, which underlines the threats faced by our personnel as they continue to hand over security operations to their Afghan counterparts ahead of UK combat operations concluding by the end of next year," he said. "Security in Helmand, where most UK forces are based, is steadily improving with Afghan forces already responsible for the bulk of the province - but the environment in which our troops operate remains risky and dangerous, including the threat of improvised explosive devices and insurgent attack. "We will continue to do all we can to minimise these risks but they can never be removed entirely." The deaths take to 444 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Six have now died in 2013. Officials first reported the deadly blast yesterday, which also killed nine Afghans. The attack came on the third day of what the Taliban has called its spring offensive. Other blasts throughout the country killed nine civilians and a police commander. In past years, spring has marked a significant upsurge in fighting between the Taliban and Nato forces with their local allies. The insurgents warned they would infiltrate enemy ranks to conduct "insider attacks" and target military and diplomatic sites with suicide bombers. This fighting season is a key test, as the international coalition is scheduled to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces next year.

Perth & Kinross

Mother of Black Watch soldier – ‘I would hate to see another drop of British blood spilled in Afghanistan’

December 24 2015

The mother of a Perthshire Black Watch soldier who committed suicide after returning from combat in Afghanistan has said she would “hate to see another drop of British blood spilled” there. British military personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province as reports suggest the Taliban is close to overrunning Sangin town. A small number of personnel had been sent to Camp Shorabak - near the former Camp Bastion - in an “advisory role”, the Ministry of Defence said. June Black, 58, of Rattray, whose 22-year-old son Aaron, committed suicide just before Christmas 2011 whilst suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, said: “I feel for the families of soldiers who were killed in action in Afghanistan, some of whom I speak to on Facebook. This will be bringing so much pain back for them.” The Ministry of Defence says the British military will not be in combat and are part of a larger Nato team. But June said it could open old wounds for many of the families of the 453 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. UK combat operations in Afghanistan ended last year, but about 450 international troops remain in mentoring and support roles. Helmand’s governor, Mirza Khan Rahimi, insisted the authorities were still in control of Sangin, in the province, but his own deputy said the town had been overrun by Taliban militants. The police headquarters reportedly remains under siege after a Taliban attack. June, whose story was told in Matthew Green’s recent book about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder called Aftershock, said Christmas was a particularly difficult time for her and would be for other families. She could not speak on behalf of other families and appreciated that Aaron’s circumstances were different as he was not killed in action. But she added: ”It’s not as simple as saying the boys out there died in vain, because it could equally be argued that what they were doing at the time was worthwhile. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the politics. “I would love to ask Aaron what he thinks about it all. What I can say is that I still haven’t had an apology from the Ministry of Defence for the acknowledged “systemic failure” that resulted in my son not being followed up as he had requested. Who knows, maybe he would still have been alive today if he had been” Nick-named ‘Blackie’ by his Royal Regiment of Scotland battalion colleagues, Aaron Black’s unit Two Platoon, Alpha Company was posted to Afghanistan in March 2009. Amongst them was close friend James Forrester of Methil, who had been in the battalion a couple of years longer. After intense training, they quickly found themselves in the thick of combat against the Taliban in the baking heat of Helmand. It was a world of rocket propelled grenades (RPG), improvised explosive devices (IED) and being pinned down for hours under heavy fire, where every moment could be your last. They experienced the stresses of colleagues blown apart or badly injured in heavy fire fights. They were standing next to a friend Robert McLaren, from Mull, just minutes before he was obliterated by a Taliban mine. No significant body parts were ever found. Aaron was watching from a rooftop when Sergeant Stuart Millar, of Inverness, and Private Kevin Elliott, of Dundee, were wiped out by a RPG and as colleagues struggled over rough ground to recover their remains on stretchers. James was given the grim task of packing away their blood-stained gear. A total of 100 British troops were killed in 2009 and many more wounded. It became known as the British army’s bloodiest summer of the war. Aaron was particularly badly affected by the experiences. Back in the UK, he became increasingly dependent on alcohol. He decided to leave the army and returned to Blairgowrie in May 2011. He had dreams of following the path of other ex-forces who had landed lucrative expatriate jobs protecting ships from pirates off the coast of Africa. But he struggled to adjust to civilian life. Shortly before Christmas that year, and haunted by memories of Afghanistan and the deaths of friends, including Cupar soldier Darren Lackie (who died of mysterious head injuries whilst on holiday in Portugal in April 2011) and Methil soldier Mark Connolly (who died after being punched by a fellow squaddie at a pub in Germany), Aaron surrounded himself with treasured photographs, his army medals and a crucifix and sent a last ‘Goodbye’ text message to his mum June before taking his own life.

Fife

RAF Leuchars volunteer medics return from Helmand province

August 3 2010

A three-month deployment in an Afghanistan warzone has ended for a group of volunteer medics based at RAF Leuchars. In total, six reservists from 612 (City of Aberdeen) Squadron safely returned to loved ones and family after providing medical care at the main British military base of Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Working out of a field trauma centre equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology, the team dealt with a host of situations, from emergency surgery to wrapping a sprained ankle. This level of care in one of the most volatile regions on the planet can be the difference between life and death for a wounded soldier, and is a crucial first link in a medical chain back to the UK. Its success is aided by reservists who, for a variety of reasons, elect to swap family life and their regular job to temporarily serve abroad risking their lives. In a press conference at RAF Leuchars four of the squadron recalled their experiences, but were told beforehand, for security reasons, not to answer questions on injuries or even how many ward beds there are within the military camp. Nevertheless, the exhausted group members said they were delighted to be home and were looking forward to adjusting back into civilian life. Squadron Leader Jane Thomson (48), of Elie, who is married with two children, has built up over nine years of experience as a reservist having toured Iraq twice and once in Afghanistan. "Every experience has been very different," said Sqn Ldr Thomson, who normally works at NHS Forth Valley, but served as a nursing officer in Bastion. "I don't think I could have imagined the increase in tempo."Gratitude to employersReservists rely on employers to give them time off to serve abroad, something which they all expressed their gratitude for. Sqn Ldr Thomson said, "It has been a privilege to work in the world's best trauma centre and everyone works very hard." With thousands of UK troops stationed in Afghanistan it is not just battle wounds being treated by 612 Squadron. That is according to father-of-two Corporal Lewis MacLeod (38), an NHS Fife staff nurse who had never been to Afghanistan before. He said, "People still have minor sprains and things like that which have to be treated, and we try to keep an NHS standard of care." Corporal Jennifer Hall (29), who works at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said that as injuries came in they were forced to prioritise who was treated first. She said, "It's the longest working day I have ever had." Corporal Samantha Wadelik (30), a radiographer at Wishaw General, said that morale remains high. Despite the long hours, energy-sapping heat and treating horrific wounds not normally seen in UK hospitals, the tour has left a positive mark on the group, who agreed they would be willing to return. Officer commanding 612 Squadron, Wing Commander Alison Moodie of Cupar, said, "We are of course delighted that they are back home. "They provide a crucial service which not only benefits the military but also the experiences gained helps them when they return to work." She added, "RAF Leuchars has been absolutely fantastic to us and so has NHS Scotland." With the latest tour now completed, the team will not be deployed again for at least another three years.

News

Taliban’s threat anticipated as 45 Commando prepare to ship out

March 19 2011

As the Royal Marines of Arbroath's 45 Commando prepare for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, a senior British commander has warned of a spring and summer onslaught by the Taliban. "In addition to all of that, they also were able to control the pace and scope of the violence using the production of narcotics to fund their activities, while simultaneously poisoning the rest of the world. "It was an insurgency that was very well organised with an efficient supply chain. At that time the coalition was concentrating on controlling areas close to the river, it was very inwardly focused maintaining small security bubbles. "Today it's quite a different province. Progress has been sustained, it's been continuous, and it's been unrelenting. "Coalition forces now have unbroken control of the Helmand river valley, each population is under our control, the security bubbles have been connected, and they've been extended, and the land between them is ours." Much of the insurgents have been pushed into the desert, he added, and in more than 2000 engagements the coalition forces have always prevailed the result being that insurgent encounters are now reduced to what the troops describe as "shoot and scoot" skirmishes. During 45 Commando's last tour in the country, which began in October 2008, 32 service personnel lives were lost. In December that year 45 Commando suffered its single largest loss of life since the Falklands campaign when three of its marines died as a result of two explosions on the same day. Brigadier George Norton, the deputy commander of coalition forces in south-west Afghanistan, said officials are expecting a Taliban counter-offensive. He said there has been "undeniable" progress since the US troop surge last year. For six months the marines of 45 Commando will be based at Nad-e Ali South in Helmand province as part of the 9500-strong UK section of NATO forces. "We expect the newly established security and governance will be subjected to the test of an insurgent offensive over the spring and summer," said Brig Norton. "So while cautiously optimistic, we must wait and see how resilient the local nationals, their security forces, and their local government will be if the insurgents really do come after them as we expect. "There is still a fragility to this progress, not least because so much of it is less than a year old." The marines' duties will include patrolling, protecting reconstruction teams, supporting the Afghan national army and police and denying insurgents freedom of movement. The first military operation in Afghanistan in 2002 was led by the marines as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). There were deployments in 2006 and 2008, but this deployment represents a first, as 45 Commando has never been on a summer tour or been based at Nad-e Ali South. They will join troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland and crews from RAF Lossiemouth as part of 3 Commando Brigade.Critical yearThis is regarded as a critical year by coalition commanders as they prepare for the full hand-over to Afghan control at the end of 2014. Large caches of weapons and equipment for making improvised explosive devices were discovered by 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment in Helmand last month. More than 500 soldiers of the regiment, using 15 helicopters and with fast jets providing cover, also took part in an assault on what was described as an insurgent haven in the Nad-e Ali district. It was the regiment's biggest operation since it crossed the Rhine in 1945. The coalition commander for the south-west, US Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills, said Helmand was "a very dark place" 12 months ago, but the situation had improved significantly. "There was an active powerful insurgency controlling the bulk of the population and the majority of the terrain," he said. "The insurgents' presence threatened the very existence of the government" he continued, and said that the roads and such infrastructure as there was all came under their influence.

UK & World

Death toll rises in bombing of mosque used for voters’ registrations

May 6 2018

The death toll for the bombing of a mosque in eastern Afghanistan has risen to 14, including a woman, an official said.Another 33 people were earlier reported injured in the blast.The explosion happened inside the Yaqoubi mosque, in the eastern Khost province, which was being used as a voter registration centre, causing casualties among civilians gathering both for prayers and to register.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate reject democratic elections and have targeted them in the past. IS is not known to have a presence in Khost, the provincial capital, but has expanded its footprint into other areas in recent years.Last month, an IS suicide bomber attacked a voter registration centre in Kabul, killing 60 people and wounding at least 130 others.In another incident on Sunday, a vehicle carrying shopkeepers on their way to a market struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province, killing seven of them.Police said another civilian was wounded in the attack, in an area where the Taliban and an IS affiliate are active.And a car bomb killed two people and wounded another three in the eastern Paktia province in an attack claimed by the Taliban. Abdullah Hsart, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the attack late on Saturday targeted Hazart Mohammad Rodwal, a district chief, who was among the wounded.

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