Taliban booby-trap villages

US Marines take part in a heavy gunbattle in Marjah, Afghanistan. (REUTERS)

Militants fleeing a massive assault in southern Afghanistan aimed at clearing Taliban from their last stronghold are booby-trapping villages as they go, commanders said yesterday.

Mines and militant sniper fire were slowing progress for US-led troops a day after they stormed Marjah, a town of 80,000 in the central Helmand River valley controlled for years by militants and drug traffickers.

Operation Mushtarak ("together" in Dari), the first major test of US President Barack Obama's new surge policy, kicked off before dawn on Saturday when 15,000 US, British and Afghan soldiers stormed the rebels' stronghold.

Nato commanders hailed the success of the first day of its biggest operation since overthrowing the Taliban regime in 2001, saying troops took fire from Taliban snipers and found huge numbers of improvised explosive devices.

 

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