HAMPSHIRE troops have dealt a body blow to the Taliban after securing a £17.5m drugs bust in Afghanistan.
In what is thought to be the largest illegal haul ever seized in the warzone, bags of opium, guns and bomb-making materials were recovered in a raid in the town of Gereshk in Helmand province.
Soldiers from First Battalion Princess of Wales Regiment – known as The Tigers – helped Afghan police officers swoop on the address of a man suspected of illegally selling government-owned land.
But they soon discovered dozens of bags of opium inside the house and in a room hidden underneath a trapdoor.
The total drugs haul weighed in at 175kg of wet opium – worth more than £17m on the street.
Opium harvested in Afghanistan is sold on to fund the Taliban fighters.
Lieutenant Paul Charlesworth, 24, who commands the Tigers team at Gereshk, said: ‘This is the largest drugs find that I’ve ever been involved in, and the biggest that ISAF forces have been involved in since we arrived in September.’
The soldiers also seized two machine guns, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, AK-47 rifles, pistols, and components to make roadside bombs.
Imitation Afghan National Security Force uniforms were also discovered which could have been used by insurgents to impersonate the Afghan government forces the Tigers are responsible for training ahead of Britain’s withdrawal in 2014.
Capt Matt Swales, 28, of Locks Heath, paid tribute to the Afghan police officers who led the raid with the Tigers.
He said: ‘Since our arrival in September there has been a real appetite in the police to improve security in Helmand. Taking such a huge haul of drugs and weapons off the streets has helped in building their confidence.’
Captain Stuart Barker, 45, added: ‘It shows how working together can produce a really significant find which demonstrates the clear connection between the drugs trade and violence and insecurity.’
A man was arrested in the raid and will now face trial in the country.