Reinforcements rushed to Afghan district

2015-12-23 20:04


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Kabul - Afghanistan rushed military reinforcements to Helmand on Wednesday after the Taliban captured large swathes of a strategic opium-producing district, prompting the first British troop deployment to the troubled province in 14 months.

The Islamists broke through the frontlines of the Sangin district on Sunday after days of pitched clashes with besieged Afghan forces, tightening their grip on the southern province.

Fleeing residents reported Taliban executions of captured soldiers as the insurgents advanced on the district centre, compounding fears that the entire province was on the brink of a security collapse.

Government reinforcements were rushed to relieve dozens of police and army units holed up in the district centre, said deputy Helmand governor Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar.

"I am confident that we will not lose Sangin," said Rasoolyar, just days after he warned that Helmand province was at grave risk of falling to the Taliban.

The war in Helmand, seen as the epicentre of the expanding insurgency, underscores worsening security in Afghanistan a year after Nato formally ended its combat operations.

All but two of Helmand's 14 districts are effectively controlled or heavily contested by Taliban insurgents.

The group also recently overran Babaji, a suburb of Lashkar Gah, sparking concerns that the provincial capital could fall.

Britain on Tuesday said a small contingent of its troops had arrived in Camp Shorabak, the largest British base in Afghanistan before it was handed over to Afghan forces last year.

The deployment, in addition to a recent arrival of US special forces in the region, is the first since British troops ended their combat mission in Helmand in October 2014.

Read more on:    taliban  |  afghanistan

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