SAS - Operation Marlborough
In July of 2005, an SAS sniper team took up position in the heart of Baghdad. The men were from Task Force Black, a special unit made up of British SAS & SBS along with US Tier One Special Operations units such as Delta Force. They were about to deal a deadly blow to the insurgency.
Just before dawn rush hour in the Iraqi capital, a 16-man SAS troop set up around a domestic residence. The core element of the troop consisted of 4 sniper teams, each armed with L115A (AWM) sniper rifles chambered in .338 lapua. Each team comprised a shooter and a spotter. The rest of the troop provided security, protecting the shooter/spotters and ensuring that all possible escape routes from the house were covered. Troops from Task Force Red, an SFSG quick reaction force, were situated close by in case things went wrong.
High above the city, a US predator spy drone kept the house under video surveillance, beaming its imagery back to the Task Force Black HQ. In addition, listening devices had secreted inside the house and were being monitored by Arabic-speaking translators.
Intelligence supplied by double agents run by MI6 had identified the house as a base for suicide bombers. It was believed that 3 insurgents, each with home-made explosives strapped to their chests were planning to leave and hit targets in the city, most likely cafes and other public establishments.
The SAS considered storming the building but it was decided this was too risky. If any of the insurgents detonated a bomb inside the building its blast would be amplified within the structure. It was decided to engage the insurgents as they exited the house. There would be civilians close by so it was essential to shoot all 3 bombers simultaneously to prevent any of them from detonating their explosives.
It was just past 8am when the insurgents stepped outside onto the street. The command was given over the radio to engage. Simultaneously, 3 SAS snipers opened fire (the 4th was held in reserve to act as a backup). Each insurgent was hit in the head and killed instantly. The .338 lapua round can crack an engine block from hundreds of meters away and thus was utterly devastating against human targets.
Operation Marlborough was a rare successful pre-emptive act against the Iraqi insurgency, one that was the result not just of the SAS's expertise but also of the intelligence gathered by MI6.
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