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ANA Detains Possible Terror Cell Leader During Sweep

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2005 – Afghan National Army and coalition forces uncovered more than just mines during Operation Minesweeper in western Afghanistan on April 13. It netted a person believed to be involved in anti-coalition attacks.

Operation Minesweeper was conducted by soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Kandak, of the Afghan National Army. The one-day operation focused on detaining members of insurgent organizations in the Herat and Shindand area, where recent violent action has been directed against ANA and coalition forces.

The person detained in the operation, whose name was not being released, is described as a possible cell leader for a local group, a Task Force Longhorn official said.

From information it gathered, ANA determined the individual's location and acted upon it along with coalition forces. "The Afghan National Army conducted the actual searches and detained the individual," said task force duty officer Capt. Paul Peterson. "It was a combined effort with coalition forces' military police providing outer security and the ANA searching houses for the individual."

During the operation, ANA searched three compounds and discovered an anti-personnel mine, eight 122 mm artillery rounds and four grenade fuses.

On April 12, several weapons caches were turned in to the servicemembers of Task Force Thunder, clearing a number of munitions, explosives and weapons systems from villages and cities. Explosive ordnance personnel have taken the munitions to coalition bases for destruction.

Among the items discovered were 359 mortar rounds, 145 recoilless-rifle rounds, 67 rockets, more then 4,000 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition, 45 anti-personnel mines, seven rocket-propelled grenades, seven artillery rounds and seven anti-tank mines. In addition, task force members discovered three complete mortar systems, one Russian-made machine gun and a complete recoilless rifle system.

"Unsecured ordnance is the primary supply for improvised explosive device construction," said Maj. Michael Hicks, Combined Joint Task Force 76's Explosive Ordnance Control Team commander. "In addition, many of these items are unstable and can present a serious hazard to anyone living or working near them. The fact that they've been stored in non-climate-controlled conditions can make them very volatile and dangerous."

Five of the seven caches discovered April 13 were the result of Afghans leading coalition forces to the munitions. "The number of these caches turned in by Afghans is increasing as people realize that Afghanistan is becoming more stable and safe," Hicks said. He estimates that each week coalition forces collect about eight tons of explosives across Afghanistan.

In other news, an investigation has determined an anti-tank mine caused the March 26 explosion that killed four Indiana National Guard soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix. There are no indications that the mine was deliberately set or designed to target the soldiers.

Two separate explosive ordnance teams - one U.S., one Canadian - assisting in the investigation confirmed that the mine was likely left from previous wars and may have shifted during recent rains.

The soldiers died when the right rear tire of their vehicle struck the anti-tank mine's pressure plate, causing the detonation. They were traveling in Logar province, about 40 kilometers south of Kabul on a three-vehicle reconnaissance mission with the Afghan National Army to survey potential firing-range locations. There were no other casualties.

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