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Rebels attack isle Marine mercy mission


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POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kaneohe Marines and Afghan soldiers were on a humanitarian mission last week dropping off 70 blue shopping bags of pads, pencils, notebooks and sketch pads donated by an Aiea company to schoolchildren in eastern Afghanistan when they were ambushed by insurgents.

;[Preview] Taliban Ambushes U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
 

Taliban fighters ambushed U.S. marines and Afghan troops during a school supply mission in Eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, sparking a fierce firefight.

Watch ]

 

No one was hurt in the ambush despite the patrol being pinned down briefly.

Heavy machine gun fire blanketed the patrol as the troops used smoke grenades and cover fire to escape the ambush in the Korengal Valley, which has a reputation as one of most dangerous areas in the country.

The start of Saturday's mission involving young Afghan schoolchildren and the insurgent ambush were recorded by an Associated Press crew that was embedded with the Kaneohe Marines and Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, known as “;the Valley of Death.”;

It was unclear what happened to the students after the patrol retreated, the wire service added.

“;Unfortunately the people, the Taliban, they don't like us and the coalition forces to have a good friendship with the local people,”; Afghan army Capt. Mubarak Shah told the Associated Press. “;That's why they started shooting, to make a distance between the Afghan army and the people.”;

The Marines from Kaneohe Bay have been in Afghanistan since November and are part of an advisory and combat mentoring team sent there to train Afghan soldiers.

President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 troops, including another 1,000 Marines from Kaneohe Bay's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, to deploy to Afghanistan to deal with the growing unrest there. They will join the 38,000 U.S. forces already stationed in Afghanistan.

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Frank Tsukano, general manager of Hawaii Stationery, said he saw the AP video report on YouTube and recognized his company's blue bags.

“;If you look closely at some of the frames, you can make out our name.”;

He said one of his drivers, Nick Resta, initiated the project with Kaneohe Marine Capt. J.R. Farris.

“;He knew one of the Marines who was re-deploying and came up with the idea to donate school supplies as a humanitarian gesture in the spirit of spreading aloha.

“;We make these type of donations at least once a month.”;

Resta, who drives a delivery truck, said he sought the donations of school supplies after Farris told him just before he left in November of the shortage of pens and tablets.

Resta, his wife, Angela, and several of their neighbors packed 70 blue shopping bags with spiral notebooks, pens, notepads, pencils and construction paper into six boxes, each weighing about 60 pounds, and paid to have them mailed to Camp Blessing in Nangalam in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.

“;Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from him (Farris) saying he was able to get them on a helicopter and taken to his remote base,”; Resta said.

After Saturday's incident, Resta said he got another e-mail saying the donations had been delivered and “;they are fine.”;

In his e-mails with Farris, Resta said he generally stays away from asking him questions concerning his Afghan mission.

Resta and Tsukano said they are ready to send more bags of school supplies.

“;I am just ready for him (Farris) to say where and when,”; Resta added. “;I have more ready to go.”;