Monday, August 17, 2009

Afghan troops capture Helmand’s Naw Zad district

Afghan forces backed by Nato-led troops have wrested a district in the troubled south of the country from Taliban control days ahead of landmark elections, authorities said Sunday.

The Afghan national flag was hoisted over the centre of Naw Zad district in Helmand province, which had long been controlled by Taliban-linked militia, a defence ministry spokesman said.

They were driven out in a major operation launched last month, he said.

‘The district of Naw Zad was freed today. The enemy has been pushed back from the district,’ General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.

At least eight districts, most of them in Helmand and neighbouring provinces remained outside government control, Azimi said.

Thousands of foreign troops, mainly US and British, along with Afghan security forces have been battling to eject the Taliban from their strongholds, to ensure that Afghans can vote safely in the August 20 presidential elections.

But commanders admit that their advance has been slowed by improvised bombs that have been responsible for most of the recent military deaths.

Electoral authorities have said that voting may not be able to go ahead in some areas under Taliban control.

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