Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Afghan, coalition troops recapture Taliban-held district

AFP , KABUL

Dozens of Afghan and coalition troops retook a southern Afghanistan district from Taliban fighters in an assault in which at least 15 rebels were killed, the defense ministry said yesterday.

The troops dropped from coalition aircraft stormed the remote Chora district in southcentral Uruzgan Province late on Friday and pushed Taliban fighters back into nearby mountains, the ministry said in a statement.

"At least 15 Taliban dead bodies were found. The overall Taliban casualties are believed to be 20," the statement said.

The army and US-led coalition were pursuing the escaped fighters, it said. Some were captured but the number would not be released pending final assessment of the battle damage, it said.

Taliban fighters overran the remote district late on Tuesday, setting ablaze the small district headquarters and some government vehicles, officials said.

Government security forces resisted for hours before fleeing. The district is about 380km southwest of the capital.

The Taliban, trying to regain control of the government that it lost in a US-led operation in 2001, often claims to hold districts in the south where they are most active.

This was the first time however that a government official has admitted they have been in control of an area for more than a few hours.

The Netherlands is due by the end of August to have 1,400 soldiers in place in Uruzgan, a hotbed for Taliban activities, as part of a NATO-led stabilization force.

Violence has intensified in southern Afghanistan over the past weeks with hundreds of people killed, mostly militants.

Much of the fighting has been in the south where the rebels have in the past month been able to fight major gun battles against Afghan and US-led coalition forces.

The coalition, which numbers more than 20,000 soldiers, has been in Afghanistan since 2001 to round up Taliban insurgents and their allies, including from al-Qaeda.

Despite their efforts there has been no let up in the insurgency, which this year appears stronger than ever before.

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