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Rudimentary nature of Afghan IEDs makes them so lethal

Mark Urban | 17:36 UK time, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The death of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid underlines how critical bomb disposal operators have come to the Nato campaign in Afghanistan.

The numbers involved give some idea of how making Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs has become a major industry on Helmand Province.

During the first nine months of this year, British forces dealt with more than 4,000 IED incidents.

Thousands more bombs were either dealt with by other Nato forces, or blew up those planting them or locals and livestock.

As for those that remain undiscovered, it is anyone's guess how many there might be.

The next wave

Staff Sgt Schmid had defused 64 IEDs during the first five months of his tour.

Bomb disposal operators (that term covers officers and NCOs, men and women) are working flat out, more intensively even than at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Recently, Newsnight filmed with the next wave of bomb disposal people bound for Afghanistan.

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They were training at the Felix Centre at Kineton in Warwickshire.

Unusual people

Talking to instructors who had returned recently from Afghanistan, such as Staff Sergeant Stu Dixon who won the George Medal there, it is the rudimentary nature of so many of the Afghan devices that makes them so difficult to deal with.

Sometimes the pressure pads or trip devices made with bare bits of wire, and old lumps of wood will result in the slightest movement making an electrical contact, leading to the explosion.

Dealing with this threat on an almost daily basis requires a very unusual type of person as we discovered during our filming.


  • Comment number 1.

    afghanistan is not worth one british life. it is a bogus mission. time to bring them home.

  • Comment number 2.


    If that were the British under Churchill, fighting the invader on all terrains and to the last man, to defend the homeland, we would be proud beyond measure. But it is Johnnie Foreigner, fighting a dirty war against some of the finest who ever walked the earth, who have come to save them from themselves and give them a decent, democratic, civilised life, like what we've got. Can't they see that the future is drinking, gambling, fornicating and state-organised debt? How many times do we have to go back and tell them - this IS the third . . .

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Meanwhile, in the place where these guys were dispatched, the talk of the day seems to be more around who can catch who out changing their mind.

    Lions abused by jackals, cheered on by vultures?

  • Comment number 5.

    Apologies, I missed a very important 'from' there, and meant no other, negative meaning which sadly could have been inferred from my use of the word.


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