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Afghan arms cache to be destroyed

Marines convoy
A British marines convoy scours the mountains as part of Operation Snipe  

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- British coalition forces are preparing to destroy a significant amount of munitions discovered in a cave complex in Afghanistan.

British Major Jeff Moulton said more than 20 truckloads of ammunition and weapons have been found in a complex of four caves.

The caves "are full or ordnance," Moulton said.

He said any unknown ordnance had to be treated as unstable and destroyed.

Moulton said the cache included artillery and mortar rounds, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades -- "all of these by the hundreds."

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The weapons were found by a reconnaissance brigade of Britain's 45 Commando group -- part of the Royal Marines -- involved in the UK-led mission called Operation Snipe.

Troops entered one cave and removed 30 truckloads of ammunition and military equipment, including mortars. Two Russian-made tanks were found outside the cave.

It is believed the caves, in a mountainous area of southeastern Afghanistan, were a weapons storage arsenal for the former Taliban regime and al Qaeda terrorists.

Moulton downplayed initial reports that the discovery was the largest munitions find by coalition forces.

He acknowledged that there were indications the complex was under control of forces sympathetic to coalition forces before Operation Snipe began.

British Brigadier Major Roger Lane said the findings were a "prime example" of how the allied forces can successfully disrupt the operations of the remaining members of al Qaeda and Taliban.

He added: "When these armaments can be recovered, they will be returned to the Afghan interim authority as part of the programme to train and equip the new Afghan army.

"Otherwise, the facility and all that it contains will be destroyed."

Earlier this month, the British Ministry of Defence said the operation -- the second to be launched by the 45 Commando since it arrived in the country last month -- was aimed at an area known to have been used by al Qaeda.

In April, about 400 mostly British troops completed a five-day mission dubbed Operation Ptarmigan.

The troops found "terrorist facilities," documents and anti-aircraft ammunition in the Shah-i-Kot area near the Pakistani border, but did not come under fire.


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