British soldiers fire on Taliban

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The Independent Online

President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation yesterday into US air strikes on a village in which at least 16 civilians were killed.

British troops fired warning shots against the Taliban during an operation in support of Afghan police in Helmand province over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday. British Apache helicopters were also deployed in a separate incident.

Capt Drew Gibson, a British Army spokesman in Afghanistan, said British troops were supporting an operation by Afghan national police and US-led forces. "They have seen suspected Taliban in the area who have been moved into position. They have fired at them - several shots - to deter them from actually attacking any of the Afghan police or coalition forces in the area," Capt Gibson told the BBC's World At One.

News of British involvement comes after days of heavy fighting in Helmand that began with a surprise attack by hundreds of Taliban insurgents on Afghan police last Thursday - an attack it took two days of fighting to repulse.

More than 2,000 British troops are in the province as part of a Nato force that is supposed to extend security across the troubled south of Afghanistan. So far there are believed to have been no British casualties. But it appears they may be getting embroiled in the Taliban insurgency. John Reid, the former Defence Secretary, had said he hoped British forces would be able to leave Afghanistan "without firing a single shot".