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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Taliban prepare for battle outside city

June 18, 2008

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— Taliban fighters destroyed bridges and planted mines after overrunning villages outside southern Afghanistan's largest city, Afghan officials and witnesses said. Hundreds of farm families fled while the Afghan army rushed in troops.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that between 300 and 400 militants - many of them foreigners - took over the Arghandab region 10 miles northwest of Kandahar. But NATO disputed the account, saying its troops there saw no signs of a Taliban offensive.

Afghan officials, fearing a major battle, told residents to leave the area.

The Taliban have long sought to control Arghandab and the good fighting positions its pomegranate and grape groves offer. With control cemented, militants could cross the flat plains to make probing attacks into Kandahar, in possible preparation for an assault on their former stronghold.

The reported offensive on Monday came three days after a Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgents.

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