British-led forces kill 40 Taliban in attack on insurgent HQ

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The Independent Online

British-led troops yesterday attacked insurgents in the Afghanistan town of Sangin in Helmand province, killing at least 40.

Three hundred British paratroopers, backed by US and Canadian forces, entered the town which borders Kandahar in the early hours of the morning, targeting scores of Taliban militants gathered there. Four civilians were injured in the operation.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the mission was an ongoing "cordon and search" operation. "The purpose of it is to disrupt Taliban activities which in recent weeks have included attacks on both Afghan security forces and and coalition forces in this area," she said.

The clashes come amid increased efforts to suppress armed extremists in the south of the country. Six British troops have been killed in or near Sangin in recent weeks.

Coalition forces said that open-ended operations will continue there until the insurgent threat no longer exists. "The operation seeks to remove the Taliban from the security equation in Sangin," said Brigadier General David Fraser, commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan.

Skirmishes between the Taliban and coalition forces also raged throughout the southern province of Uruzgan early yesterday, where at least 31 insurgents were killed. On Friday, coalition troops killed two male non-Afghans in burqas. Explosive material was later found at the scene.

Elsewhere in Uruzgan, a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade attack on a convoy delivering supplies to US-led coalition forces killed one civilian and wounded a truck driver.

More than 3,000 British forces are deployed in Helmand province, hundreds of whom are operating close to Sangin, where resistance from Taliban holdouts is intense.

Nine hundred more British troops will be sent to Afghanistan between now and October.

Yesterday's clashes bring the number of militant and civilian casualties killed to more than 700.