Coleraine soldier ‘saved many lives’

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A teenage Coleraine soldier saved the lives of dozens of his comrades when he discovered hidden cache of ten Taliban bombs during a patrol in Helmand.

Ranger Gavin Edgar, 19 (PICTURED), who only joined the Army last year and is on his first operational tour, discovered the improvised explosive devices hidden beneath a large hay bale in the area of Nad e’Ali in central Helmand.

A member of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, Ranger Edgar was leading a patrol through a hamlet last week when he suspected that a bomb or bomb-making equipment might be hidden beneath the hay bale.

The soldier, who holds the position of lead “Vallon Man” – the Vallon is a mine detector – is responsible for trying to discover hidden bombs and explosive caches when on patrol. The job is regarded as one of the most dangerous but important roles in Afghanistan.

Rgr Edgar, who has been specially trained to identify potential threats, ran his Vallon mine detector over the bale and when the alarm sounded, indicating a potential IED, he told his fellow soldiers to move away from the danger zone. Using the skills learnt in his pre-deployment training and developed over the four months he has so far spent in Helmand, Rgr Edgar began confirming the presence of a number of bombs.

He cleared a safe area for the men to move into whilst they awaited the arrival of a specialist IED disposal team to make the unstable munitions safe

The haul is the biggest to have been found by the Royal Irish troops in their area of operations to date. It comprised:

• one formed IED containing 8kg of explosives in a container and a direct firing charge;

• six IED main charges in the form of 81mm mortar shells with explosives and fuses attached;

• a large quantity of pressure plate components and detonation cord;

• 15 tubes of rocket propellant designed for rocket-propelled grenades;

• a large bag of home-made explosives;

• five battery packs

Rgr Edgar, who is now based in Tern Hill, Shropshire, said: “As we were patrolling, I moved around the corner of the compound and saw the haystack.

“I passed the Vallon over it and it started to bleep, which immediately caused alarm. I slowly started to pull the top of the hay away to investigate further and then saw the pressure plates. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“I was delighted to find all these explosives because I knew that, now we had them, they couldn’t be used against us by the insurgents.

“This will be a big loss to the insurgency but it’s great news for us – and the local people who now won’t be at risk of being blown up by these indiscriminate weapons.”

Lieutenant Colonel Colin Weir, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, praised Rgr Edgar’s professionalism, and said: “The IED threat in this area has been significant; we have lost life and limb to IEDs in this area. Ranger Edgar’s professionalism has, without doubt, saved lives.

“Our weapons experts assess that the material recovered could have made at least 10 IEDs – so a good morning’s work.”

In the last two years the IED has become the Taliban’s weapon of choice and is now responsible for the majority of casualties being sustained by British troops in Helmand.

Most IEDs are made in small bomb factories in hamlets in Taliban-controlled area of the province.