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Page last updated at 06:10 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 07:10 UK
Troops face increasing IED threat

By Andy Brownstone
Newsbeat reporter in Afghanistan


See how an army expert makes a bomb safe

The green zone in the town of Sangin, southern Afghanistan, is full of trees, maize fields and lush vegetation.

It's also a death trap.

British troops here often refer to it as IED Valley (Improvised Explosive Device) because of the number of roadside bombs.

In the last six months the Taleban have realised they can't beat UK forces in this area by conventional warfare, so they've resorted to planting hundreds of explosives in areas regularly patrolled by the Brits.

Two very different characters who've been helping British troops are Master Sergeant Chavez, a US army explosives expert and Trio the dog.

Chavez told Newsbeat: "If it blows up, I go out and make it not blow up."

Meet Trio the sniffer dog and find out what he does

While Trio, an eight-year-old black Labrador, has the job of sniffing out IEDs and showing the patrol where they are.

Dave Hayhill, Trio's handler, said: "For the last six months we've been out on virtually every patrol, which has saved many lives on the ground."

There are no firm figures for the exact number of IEDs found in this tour of duty but it's clear that Chavez and Trio have been responsible for discovering a large number.

The black lab has made 12 finds, while Chavez reckons last month alone he was called out 34 times.

And he says during five tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, he's got rid of well over 500 devices.

Anti-tamper devices

IEDs can be set off in a number of different ways.

Some have pressure pads so they explode when someone steps on them.

Some will have a wire leading from the explosive to a Taleban fighter who can see the oncoming patrol, while others can be remotely operated by things like mobiles.

One of the hardest things for the troops trying to deal with them, is that no two devices are ever the same.
We've had some close calls, but there's a big luck factor
Master Sergeant Chavez

They're being buried deeper, made more complex and often fitted with anti-tamper features.

UK soldiers have told Newsbeat they'd much rather be shot at by the Taleban than face the threat of hidden bombs.

But one thing both the US expert and the British dog have in common is that they seem to be fearless.

Military award

Trio's handler Dave said: "He's been in the right place at the right time.

"He's found explosives that have been taken out of the ground and saved many lives.

"That's why one of the platoon commanders has put the dog in for a military award."

And Chavez added: "We've had some close calls, but there's a big luck factor.

"Luck's very nice to have on your side but it's going to run out eventually.

"I don't always know what I'm doing, I just roll with it and back my play."

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