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SBS - Operation Ilois - Ambushed by the Taliban

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Operation Ilois

Unit/ Formation: SBS

Location: Sangin

Period/ Conflict: War in Afghanistan (2001-)

Year: 2006

Date/s: 27 June 2006

A 16-man unit from C Squadron, Special Boat Service and the SRR carried out Operation Ilois: an operation that covertly captured four Taliban leaders in compounds on the outskirts of Sangin, Helmand province.

As they returned to their Land Rover vehicles, they were ambushed by an estimated 60 to 70 Taliban insurgents. With one vehicle disabled by Rocket-propelled grenade fire, the team took cover in an irrigation ditch and requested assistance while holding off the Taliban force.

The Helmand Battle Group had not been informed of the operation until it went wrong; a quick reaction force made up of a platoon of Gurkhas responded but ran into another insurgent ambush; one SBS member was seriously injured in the ambush.

Operation Ilois - SBS and SRS 27th June 2006 - Painting by David Rowlings

After an hour-long gunfight (some sources say three), Apache attack helicopters, the Gurkha quick reaction force and the 16-man unit, supported by a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt and two Harrier GR7s managed to break contact and return to the closest forward operating base; two of the four Taliban leaders were killed in the firefight while the remaining two escaped in the chaos.

Upon reaching the forward operating base it was discovered that Captain David Patton, SRR, and Sergeant Paul Bartlett, SBS were missing – one was helping wounded out of a vehicle when he was shot and assumed killed, while the second went missing during the firefight. A company from the Parachute Regiment in an RAF Chinook took off to find them, a pair of Apaches spotted the bodies and the Parachute Regiment troops recovered them. One SBS member was awarded the MC for his actions in the ambush.

Image: David Rowlings

They were expecting a meeting of just four key guys but the OP was compromised and they were ambushed by 70-odd Taliban

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