Simultaneous headshots stop 3 suicide bombers UK Telegraph | 20/11/2005 Early on a warm summer morning, a few hours before traffic began to fill the streets, a 16-man SAS patrol took up ambush positions around a Baghdad house, writes Sean Rayment. The soldiers had been told that the house was a being used as a base by insurgents - and up to three suicide bombers were expected to leave it later that morning. Dressed in explosive vests, they were fully equipped to hit a number of locations around the city. The bombers' targets were thought to be cafes and restaurants frequented by members of the Iraqi security forces. The intelligence was regarded as "high grade" and came from an Iraqi agent who had been nurtured by members of the British Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, for several months. Expectation among the 16 soldiers, attached to Task Force Black (TFB), the secret American and British special forces unit based in the Iraqi capital, was high. Each member of the four four-man groups was a veteran of many missions where the intelligence promised much - only to deliver little. The plan for Operation Marlborough was simple: allow the three suspected bombers to leave the house and get into the street, then kill them with head shots from the four sniper teams. Each team was equipped with L115A .338 sniper rifles, capable of killing at up to 1,000 yards. The soldiers, liaising earlier with their commanders, had considered the option of entering the house and killing the terrorists - but that plan was regarded as too dangerous. The confines of the house would intensify the impact of any blast, killing everyone inside. The SAS soldiers were told that it was vital that the three bombers would have to be killed simultaneously. If one of them was allowed to detonate a device, scores of people could be killed or injured. In support of the covert sniper teams was a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), which would provide a dozen extra soldiers within a few minutes in an emergency. The QRF was based in a secure location nearby and a team of ammunition technical officers were on hand to defuse the bombs. A section of Iraqi police was also attached to the operation - although they were not briefed on the detail of the attack - to deal with any crowd trouble. Meanwhile, 2,000 feet above the city of five million inhabitants, a CIA-controlled Predator unmanned air vehicle was providing a real-time video feed back to the TFB headquarters deep inside the secure green zone. Shortly after 8am, Arabic translators, monitoring listening devices hidden inside the house, warned the operations centre inside the militarily controlled green zone that the three terrorist were on the move. The message "stand by, stand by" was dispatched to the four teams. As the terrorists entered the street, a volley of shots rang out and the three insurgents slumped to the ground. Each terrorist had been killed by a single head shot - the snipers having spent the past few days rehearsing the ambush in minute detail. The SAS troopers had been warned that only a direct head shot would guarantee that bombs would not be detonated. Only three of the four snipers fired, the fourth was to act as a back-up in case one of the weapons jammed or a sniper lost sight of his target. The message that the terrorists had been killed was sent back to the SAS headquarters and the troops moved forward to check the bodies for life. As they gingerly approached it became brutally apparent that the .338 calibre round - the biggest rifle bullet used by the Army - had done its job. Operation Marlborough was hailed as a complete success and one of the rare occasions on which the coalition has been able to deliver a decisive blow against suicide bombers. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The L115A British Sniper Rifle IT can stop a car in its tracks, penetrate armour and kill at three-quarters of a mile, and has emerged as one of the SAS's most versatile and deadly weapons in the Afghan war. The new British-made L115A .338 calibre sniper rifle is believed to have been used by special forces to make several "kills" during operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. Although 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment took the gun to Macedonia during the mission to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in the summer, the Afghan campaign is the first time the weapon has been fired - and has killed - in anger. The L115A is a highly prized piece of equipment within the British Army - there are relatively few in use. SAS patrols have devised simple but effective hit-and-run ambush tactics against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters moving through mountain passes in lorries and pick-up trucks, and one Ministry of Defence official said, that in such circumstances, "The effect on the enemy would be devastating. "The first round takes care of the pick-up truck or lorry by shattering the engine block and, as the Taliban fighters try to find out what's going on, they're taken out by the sniper. At 1,200 metres, with the shot echoing around a valley, they won't have a clue what's going on. "This is a fantastic piece of kit. It can stop any car in its tracks by splitting the engine block in two, and it can also pierce the armour of light tanks or armoured personnel carriers. With a decent sniper, anyone within its range is a dead man - even if they are wearing body armour." The SAS has access to a vast array of sophisticated weapons, but what its armoury lacked was a sniper rifle that was relatively light but could pack a powerful punch. The weapon was chosen after extensive and rigorous tests carried out by the Infantry Trials Development Unit. Marksmen gauged the weapon's accuracy and reliability under the most extreme conditions in the Brunei jungle, the Omani desert and during the Alaskan winter. The American Barratt Light .50 semi-automatic, a favourite weapon of the IRA, and the French PGM Hecate .50 calibre bolt-action sniper rifle were also tested, but the L115A emerged as the preferred option. It is a bolt-action rather than a semi-automatic weapon. It has a magazine holding five rounds and is fitted with a telescopic sight. The gun fires a .338 lapua magnum bullet which can either be armour-piercing or incendiary, depending on the type of target. The rifle came into service only this year and will be issued to 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade and elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. The L115A is manufactured by Accuracy International, based in Portsmouth. A spokesman for the company said: "We are under contract for the Ministry of Defence and, as this is a weapon used by the special forces, we are not prepared to comment further." A team working with Malcolm Cooper, the twice Olympic and eight-time world champion rifle shot, is understood to have helped in the design. The Accuracy International L115A Sniper's rifle in .338 Lapua is derived from the L96 Sniper's rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO. The .338 Lapua cartridge was adopted to permit longer ranged shots than were possible using 7.62mm NATO ammunition. Australian snipers are using a similar rifle called the SR98, also made by Accuracy International. The rifle can be fitted with a supressor to help confuse enemy troops as to the location of the sniper or sniper team.