Twenty Taliban were killed during a raid in which British soldiers seized 50 million worth of heroin.

British snipers and powerful British Army Apache helicopter gunships attacked the base the Taliban were trying to defend...

British soldiers seize heroin worth 50m in Afghanistan airborne assault

By Matthew Hickley
18th February 2009
Daily Mail

British troops in Afghanistan have seized 50million worth of heroin in a dramatic airborne assault, destroying a string of secret drugs laboratories and bomb factories in one of the largest such operations of recent years.

Hundreds of soldiers and Royal Marines were dropped by helicopter under cover of darkness to surround and attack a remote Taliban stronghold area in Helmand Province, sparking hours of vicious fighting.

UK commanders said the raid - codenamed Operation Diesel - had achieved complete surprise, forcing the surviving enemy to flee the area and abandon hugely valuable drug stockpiles and weapons.

Operation Diesel: British troops have taken 50million worth of heroin during an attack on a remote Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan

The Taliban earn hundreds of millions of pounds a year by controlling much of Afghanistan's heroin trade, handling much of the harvest and imposing 'taxes' on the movement of drugs.

UK forces spent weeks planning and rehearsing for Operation Diesel in order to secure the Upper Sangin Valley - a hotbed of enemy activity and a major centre for heroin processing.

British units mounted decoy advances into the desert to fool the Taliban as to their real objectives, while quietly moving columns of troops into hidden positions surrounding the sprawling network of compounds close to the Helmand River.

Then at 1am on February 7 the assaults began with a dramatic airlift of 500 UK troops, dropped by waves of British and American helicopters in the space of a few minutes barely 800 yards from enemy positions.

Seized: A Royal Marine looks over a haul of opium taken during the airborne raid

The Taliban fought fiercely but were quickly overwhelmed and forced to flee. The Ministry of Defence said around 20 Taliban were killed and four captured.

British Marines and soldiers found two huge drug processing plants containing tonnes of raw opium and huge quantities of 'precursor' chemicals needed for processing, including sacks of Ammonium Chloride and barrels of Acetic Anhydride.

In one compound they stumbled across 15 barrels of wet opium being 'cooked'.

Taliban fighters trying to protect the base were attacked by British snipers and mortar teams, as well as British Apache helicopter gunships overhead.

Sergeant Tony Dryden, of Lima Company, 42 Commando Group, said: 'The Taliban was confused and completely overmatched by our tactics - our scheme of manoeuvre was fantastic.

'I have never seen anything like it, as they were on the back foot and unable to cope throughout.'

British commanders have described the assault as a complete success that took the Taliban by surprise

In the past British troops have succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents out of areas but have lacked the manpower to hold them, and have ended up fighting repeatedly over the same ground.

British Army Apache helicopters were involved in the attack

Details of the successful strike emerged as U.S. President Barack Obama approved the deployment of a further 17,000 troops in Afghanistan over the summer following requests from Pentagon chiefs.

The US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, had requested up to 30,000 additional troops, including three more combat brigades and an aviation brigade and support troops.

Twenty Taliban were killed and four captured during the operation