Perthshire hero in land mine mission
Army veteran Frank faces deadly job in Iraq
A heroic Perthshire aid worker leading the fight to clear deadly land mines in Iraq has helped a Scottish charity destroy over 1000 explosive devices this year.
Army veteran Frank Philip also told how he dodged Iranian missiles after an army general linked to terror attacks was assassinated in January.
Frank (61) has spent the year avoiding danger in the war-ravaged state while clearing explosives with the HALO Trust as a programme manager in Baghdad.
The ex-serviceman of 30 years found himself in the line of fire when Tehran tried to avenge the death of powerful Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike.
The father-of-three revealed how some of his team drove past the smoking wreckage of Solemani’s convoy after it had been destroyed at Baghdad airport.
Iran soon started launching its own rockets into the region, forcing Frank to relocate.
Over the past year his HALO team has cleared 750,000 square metres using armoured machines, destroying 700 IEDs and 400 unexploded grenades, mortar bombs and artillery shells.
Frank, who lives in Kinloch Rannoch, and his team cleared 700 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 400 unexploded grenades and mortars this year.
They also reached a landmark 1000 IEDs wiped out since starting the demining operations in Iraq in August 2018.
“The year 2020 has been an unusual one for us,” said Frank, who is now in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
“We had a bad start with the Iranian-American tensions over the death of Major General Qasem Soleimani.
“Some of my guys actually drove past the burning vehicles, coming out of the airport after returning from their Christmas leave.
“We’d been instructed not to go into Baghdad because the Iranians had vowed to respond so we made the decision to relocate to Erbil in the north.
“Of course, no sooner had we got here than the Iranians launched their ballistic missile strikes against American bases in Anbar province and at Erbil Airport, right beside where I am at the moment.
“That wasn’t expected and made for a fun start of the year for us. To be fair, I didn’t even notice but my daughter phoned me up in the middle of the night and told me I’d been attacked.”
He added: “It was bad for a long period of time with attacks on US bases. There were constant attacks against contractors for the US troops, with logistic convoys getting hit on the main supply routes. There was a lot of indirect fire happening – usually rockets, rather than mortars.
“There’s no getting around it is a hostile environment.
“You’ve also still got the remnants of ISIS causing trouble not far away from some of the areas where we are operating.
“We paid very close attention to the security situation, but we haven’t yet had to suspend our operations because we work closely with the Iraqi authorities.
“I’m currently in Kurdistan, where the Turks are conducting all sorts of operations against the PKK in a fight that’s been raging for decades.
“It’s a confused, multi-faceted security situation.”
While the threat of Iranian missile strikes and ISIS could not stop brave
Frank’s team, coronavirus did.
Frank, who was awarded an MBE in 2004, explained: “COVID restrictions have meant our operations have been a bit stopstart.
“All our operations were suspended when the Iraqi government understandably put the country into lockdown.
“We kept people in place during the height of the pandemic so that when we did get the green light to go back to work in mid-June, we could do so with the minimum of delay.
“And despite the stop-start nature of this year, we’ve removed the threat of over 1000 explosive weapons.
“Destroying our 1000 IED since we started our operations in August 2018 was an encouraging landmark.”
UK aid is supporting all three of HALO’s demining projects in Anbar province in western Iraq.
The UK Government has also committed £272 million in humanitarian support to Iraq since 2014, providing life-saving healthcare services to over 4.3m people, and safe drinking water, toilet and shower facilities to more than 3.5m people.