May 7, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The British newspaper 'The Times' has lifted the veil on missions in Afghanistan by Belgian F-16 fighter bombers charged with supporting NATO ground troops.
BAF F-16AM #FA-117 from the 2nd Wing deploys flares during a combat patrol over Afghanistan on November 12th, 2008. [USAF photo by SSgt. Aaron Allmon]
One of these planes has killed two Taliban insurgents in the province of Helmand.
The incident took place last Thursday when close to Garmsir, four insurgents were first spotted by an unmanned aircraft (UAV
), which relayed the pictures to the British commanders.
They spotted the Taliban in the process of planting an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) - on one of the routes taken by the troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF
Two Belgian F-16 called to the rescue were about to blast away the Taliban fighters but according to the Times, they were prevented by the arrival of a young Afghan goatherd.
The Taliban had meanwhile continued to bury their explosives despite the presence of F-16, causing a "growing frustration" among the British officers. At a certain moment a third Taliban fighter began to walk backwards holding a wire and disappeared from view.
When finally the young shepherd left, the F-16s were ordered to attack. "Rather than dropping a 500lb bomb that would have damaged the bridge, one of the jets came roaring in and strafed the area with 20mm cannon where the two Taliban had nearly finished burying their IED. They both died."
The insurgent with the wire had climbed on to a motorcycle and was followed by the drone while traveling south. The man entered a compound to change his clothes and then drove off again to a rendezvous spot known to be a Taliban command center. He was allowed to escape.
The bomb, consisting of four mortar shells filled with explosives and attached to each other, was later defused by two US Marine bomb-disposal specialists.