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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June 2008, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
On patrol in Helmand
By Andy Brownstone
Newsbeat reporter

Soldier in poppy field
British troops have to walk through the poppy fields because of the threat of mines on the roads and paths.


Three British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment have been killed in Afghanistan.

It takes the number of deaths of UK troops there to 100.

The men were on a foot patrol near their base in Helmand Province when they were attacked by a suicide bomber.

Another soldier was injured in the blast but is expected to be ok.

We were based with 2 Para on our recent Newsbeat trip to Afghanistan in April.

Back then it was the middle of the poppy harvest, so there were not many attacks by the Taleban, who are heavily involved in the opium trade.

During one of the patrols we were on, Captain Dave Middleton explained how dangerous the area can be, even when it feels calm.

British soldiers on patrol
Troops are constantly wary of the threat of mines in fields like this

He said: "What we can see is people that deliberately want to blank you, probably people who are 'dicking', or providing information to other people once we've moved off through some sort of signal, just to let people know we're coming down.

"You know you're being watched, but it just brings it home that 200 metres that way you can be chatting in a field, and yet here is where an explosion went off a few weeks ago."

It is very hard to describe the feeling of walking through the very beautiful scenery of a poppy field, knowing that at any minute you could tread on a mine, or be shot at.

Invisible Enemy

The Taleban have become an extremely difficult enemy to fight against.

They know they can't beat the British firepower, so they have resorted to roadside bombs, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and suicide attacks.

We heard stories of Taleban fighters packing explosives into the frames of bicycles and then trying to ride into troops.

They don't wear a uniform, and as one soldier told me, once a fighter has put down his weapon "he's just another Afghan man with a turban, big beard and filp flops. How do you know which ones to shoot?"

British forces do all they can to prevent civilian deaths, but that makes life very difficult when you cannot tell who is an innocent bystander and who is an enemy fighter with an AK47 under his cloak.

The Taleban fell from power in 2001 shortly after the September 11th attacks.

The original plan was that British troops would stay there just a few years to help the new government stablise the country.

Instead almost 8000 UK soliders are now based there and face some of the most fierce battles seen in decades.

Trooper Jamie Mcallen is from the Household Cavalry, he was just finishing up his tour when we met him.

He said: "There's no front lines. It's a 360 battle.

"You go in, you clear one place, you go on to clear the next, and they've tucked back in behind you again.

"That makes it hard, that makes it very hard."



SEE ALSO
In pictures: Patrolling the poppy fields
Wednesday, 30 April 2008, 17:18 GMT |  Newsbeat
Life for troops at Camp Bastion
Monday, 28 April 2008, 17:22 GMT |  Newsbeat
British forces 'treat injured Taleban'
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
'I survived a bomb attack'
Monday, 28 April 2008, 09:12 GMT |  Newsbeat
The dogs taking on the Taleban
Monday, 28 April 2008, 15:39 GMT |  Newsbeat


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