DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 17, 2010 ~ Marines Battling Afghanistan Taliban Call In Gunships
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY February 17, 2010 ~ Marines Battling Afghanistan Taliban Call In Gunships*Source: DTN News / BBC
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - February 17, 2010: US Marines battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan have had to call in helicopter gunships for support, as a major offensive enters its fifth day.
The marines have faced sustained and heavy machine-gun fire from fighters hiding in bunkers, as they try to gain control of the Taliban haven of Marjah. US Marines have come under heavy machine-gun fire in Marjah
Some 15,000 troops are taking part in the joint Nato and Afghan operation.
To the north, British forces have discovered an insurgent cache of stolen Afghan army and police uniforms. U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and an Afghan soldier prepare to enter a house to search for weapons in the town of Marjah, in Nad Ali district of Helmand province February 16, 2010. U.S. Marines, leading one of NATO's biggest offensives against Taliban Islamic militants in Afghanistan, are facing fierce resistance in some areas, bogged down by heavy gunfire, snipers and booby traps.
The find suggests the Taliban could have been planning attacks disguised as Afghan security personnel, the BBC's Frank Gardner in Kandahar says.
Both American and British forces taking part in Operation Moshtarak have been having to deal with large numbers of improvised bombs.
American forces have found a so-called "daisy chain" - a long bomb rigged up from mortar bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and a motorbike, our correspondent says. Flames rise up from heroin and hashish set ablaze during a drug burning ceremony in Khost, south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw ingredient for heroine, which is considered to be a major funding source for the Taliban.
Meanwhile, British engineers have deployed a device called a "python" - a length of explosives designed to set off mines and clear a safe path through them, he says.
Afghan army chief of staff Besmillah Khan told the AFP news agency the threat from improvised bombs meant gains were coming "slowly".
Nato says discussions with the local population on how to bring lasting security in the area are continuing, our correspondent adds.
Missiles 'on target'
US forces have encountered pockets of fierce resistance around the town of Marjah as the operation to force the Taliban out of their strongholds in Helmand province continues.
But British and Afghan troops are reported to be advancing more swiftly in the nearby district of Nad Ali.
Operation Moshtarak is the biggest coalition attack since the Taliban fell in 2001
The commander of British forces in southern Afghanistan said on Tuesday a missile that struck a house outside Marjah on Sunday killing 12 people, including six children, had hit its intended target.
Maj Gen Nick Carter said the rocket had not malfunctioned and the US system responsible for firing it was back in use. Officials say three Taliban, as well as civilians, were in the house.
Initial Nato reports said the missile had landed about 300m (984ft) off its intended target. Gen Carter blamed these "conflicting" reports on "the fog of war".
He said that protecting the local population remained at the heart of the operation and that coalition forces were being very careful with aerial-launched missiles.
Nato has stressed that the safety of civilians in the areas targeted is its highest priority.
Speaking on Tuesday, Dawud Ahmadi - a spokesman for Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal - said the Afghan National Army and Nato forces were clearing areas around Marjah of mines.
Mr Ahmadi said that 1,240 families had been displaced and evacuated from Marjah - and all had received aid in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Operation Moshtarak, meaning "together" in the Dari language, is the biggest coalition attack since the Taliban fell in 2001.
Allied officials have reported only two coalition deaths so far - one American and one Briton killed on Saturday.
TALIBAN CONFLICTLATEST NEWS
Taliban 'military chief' seized in PakistanAfghanistan missile 'hit target'Afghan Taliban resist Nato pushOperation Moshtarak: Day-by-dayOperation Moshtarak: DiaryBACKGROUNDBreakthrough?How significant is Taliban chief's arrest? Tightening gripCritical operation has high stakesOperation MoshtarakInformation - the new frontline'Success not surprise'Who are the Taliban?Map: Foreign forcesQ&A: Who is fighting the TalibanMapping the militant nexus