The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War/Chapter 5

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CHAPTER 5: MINE WARFARE[edit]

Mine warfare is a favorite technique with the guerrilla. It is a relatively inexpensive way to attack personnel and vehicles. Most Mujahideen mines were anti-tank and anti-vehicular. When the Mujahideen employed anti-personnel mines, they preferred the directional mine (similar to the U.S. claymore mine). Soviet mines were mostly anti-personnel. During the war, the Mujahideen were supplied with many types of foreign anti-tank mines Often, the Mujahideen would stack three anti-tank mines on top of each other to guarantee a catastrophic kill: Many Afghans are inveterate tinkerers and they preferred to make their own antitank mines from unexploded ordnance and other antitank mines.

Page 140 The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War DIAGRAM 1 MINE AND BATTERY DIAGRAM 2 WATER DETONATOR

VIGNETTE 1: MUJAHIDEEN DEMOLITION METHODS[edit]

by Commander Mulla Malang

The Mujahideen would move heavy unexploded bombs (250-500 kilo-grams) at night by tractors to the road and bury them under bridges, underpasses and viaducts. The bombs were remotely controlled, usually by home-made detonators, fired some 500 meters from the road.Several such bombs would be detonated under a passing enemy convoy to heavily damage the vehicles. Tanks and other armored escort vehicles were the primary target for remote-controlled bombs.

If remote-control detonation was unfeasible, the Mujahideen used another method to selectively attack the tracked armored vehicles.The Mujahideen would stretch two metal wires across the paved road.The wires were spaced close together and hooked to an electric battery.The rubber tires of civilian and military vehicles would pass over the wires, but the metal tracks of tanks and BMPs would close the electrical circuit and set off the explosion. (See diagram)

Abdul Wali, a Mujahideen from Kandahar, was known for his creative bomb-making. Once in 1986, he sent a floating bomb down the Nosh-e Jan creek (which runs in the western suburbs of Kandahar city from northeast to southwest) to destroy a government outpost at a hotel.[1] Abdul Wali strapped a 250 kilogram bomb onto some truck tire inner tubes. He measured the distance from the outpost to his release point upstream where he would launch his floating bomb. The bomb was hooked to a wire whose length was the length from launch point to outpost. Once the floating bomb stretched out the full length of the wire, it was exactly under the outpost. Abdul Wali remotely-detonated the bomb and destroyed the outpost.

In well-defended enemy areas, the presence of minefields and other obstacles did not allow Mujahideen to raid enemy bases. In this case,delay-fired rockets hit the enemy positions. Kandahar air base, whichbecame a major Soviet military base, was one of these difficult targets.The Mujahideen used delay-firing mechanisms so that they could leave the area before the rocket fired and the Soviet counter-fires began.Initially, only field-expedient delay-firing mechanisms were available.

Mulla Malang was one of the most famous commanders of the Kandahar area. He was an adherent of Maulavi Mohammed Yunis Khans-Islamic Party (Hezb-e-Islami Khalis).

Later in the war, the Mujahideen acquired factory-produced remotecontrol devices to fire their rockets, but they still continued to use fieldexpedient methods to do the job.

One local method was to use a leaking water container. The Mujahidden would punch a hole in the bottom of an empty three-gallon tin can and fill it with water. The trigger wire would be attached to a wooden float. The trigger wire would be inserted into the can. The other end of the wire would be connected to a battery. The battery would not be strong enough to complete the circuit through the water. The tin can would be attached by wire to the rocket. As the water leaked from the can, the floating wire would move lower until it reached the bottom of the can. The contact would complete the electric circuit and set the rocket off (see diagram).

VIGNETTE 2: MINING ATTACKS NEAR MEHTAR LAM[edit]

by Commander Sher Padshah and Sheragha

After the battle for Alishang District Center, Commander Padshah gathered 30 Mujahideen and moved further south to the village ofMendrawur. Mendrawur is about 11 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Mehtar Lam and about five kilometers north of the Kabul-Jalalabad highway. We received information that an armored columnwould be moving from Jalalabad to Mehtar Lam toward the end of August 1981 (Map 5-1 - Mehtar). We decided to attack the columnwith bombs and an ambush. We liked powerful mines, so we usually took the explosives from two Egyptian plastic mines and put these into a single large cooking oil tin container. We also used the explosives from unexploded Soviet ordnance to make our own bombs. We put onebomb under a small bridge and hooked a remote-control device onto it.We strung the detonating wire about 100 meters further south wherewe established our ambush in an orchard on the east side of the high-way. We had two RPG-7s, one PK machine gun and one Bernau light machine gun. There were three Mujahideen in the bomb-firing party.

We saw the Soviet column approach slowly. Dismounted Soviet engineers were walking in front of the column with their mine detectors. They were carefully checking the route. When they came to the small bridge, they discovered the bomb. Several Soviets gathered around the bomb, but instead of disconnecting the wires, they stood around talking about the bomb. The three-man firing party, Sheragha, Matin and another Sheragha, were watching them through binoculars.We saw several Soviets checking the bomb and knew that the ambush was spoiled, so we detonated the bomb killing several Soviets. The Soviet column began firing in every direction. We left the orchard and withdrew through the Bazaar of Mendrawur going north. Some of the villagers were wounded by the Soviet fire.

Three or four days later, we had 40 Mujahideen in our group and were ready to try another ambush. We went to the village of Mashakhel. We buried two of our bombs in the road. We did not have any more remote-control firing devices, so we rigged these bombs with pressure fuses. We put cow manure on the mines to hide them. God bless Matin's soul, he used to always put the manure on the mines.

Commander Sher Padshah and Sheragha are from Laghman Province. [Map sheet 3086]. Page 144 The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War Chapter 5, Vignette 2 Page 145

We set up our ambush covering the mines

We saw the column approach slowly. Soldiers with mine detectingdogs were walking in front of the column. The dogs were running loose and they promptly found and pointed out our bombs. Sheragha and Shawali moved forward when they saw the dogs. They watched as the dogs stood by the mine Two soldiers got out of an APC with a longprobe. The soldiers started probing the manure piles and they found the mine in the third pile. Four Soviets, including an officer, crowded together looking at the mine. So, Sheragha and Shawali opened fire killing the four Soviets. The remaining Soviets pulled back out of the ambush kill zone.

The Soviets began to return fire. Commander Padshah ordered four Mujahideen to move north onto Tarakhel hill to provide covering fire for the group's withdrawal. To confuse the enemy, he grabbed his megaphone and yelled "Keep your positions. The reinforcements just arrived." A DRA column came from Mehtar Lam and took up defensive positions and started firing at us. Tanks also maneuvered against uson the Mehtar Lam plain west of the road. We withdrew under the cover of night. We know we killed four Soviets and may have killed or wounded up to 18 DRA and Soviets. We destroyed one of their tanks and two trucks.

CHAPTER COMMENTARY[edit]

The Mujahideen preference for home-made mines in metal cans made it easier for Soviet mine detectors to find them. The tendency for curious troops to cluster around a newly-discovered mine is not uniquely Soviet, and the Soviets eventually trained their engineers to quit clustering around mines.

The Mujahideen usually combined demolitions and mining with other forms of offensive and defensive action. They usually covered their mines with direct fire weapons. The Mujahideen seldom left their mines unattended if they were located a distance from the border and a ready supply of mines. After an ambush or fight, they would often dig up their unexpended mines and take them with them to the next mission.

  1. Gul Sardar Hotel near Sarpuza.