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British-Led Forces Launch Anti-Taleban Offensive in Southern Afghanistan

British-led forces in Afghanistan have launched a new offensive to clear Taleban fighters from their stronghold in the southern province of Helmand.

NATO officials say 2,500 Afghan and NATO troops are involved in the operation, which began this Wednesday morning in Helmand's Upper Gereshk Valley region.

NATO says the troops built a crossing (bridge) over the Helmand River and established an operating base in the area.

The alliance says the goal of the offensive is to create a secure environment for Afghan authorities to bring reconstruction and development projects to Helmand.

The violence-plagued region in southern Afghanistan produces more than half of the country's opium. The illegal drug trade helps to fund the Taleban insurgency.

Also Wednesday, Taleban militants killed three Afghan security guards protecting a construction project in the southeastern province of Zabul.

Earlier, a suicide bomber attacked a police patrol in Helmand's Garmsir district, wounding eight Afghan policemen.

In other developments, the Defense Ministry says Afghan forces killed three militants in the central province of Wardak Tuesday.

Elsewhere, fighting between Taleban militants and NATO forces in Zabul killed one woman and wounded two other civilians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.