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NATO Launches Offensive in Southern Afghanistan

  • David Dyar

U.S.-led NATO troops have launched a major offensive in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, a major Taliban stronghold.

Military helicopters were due to land in the town of Marjah early Saturday, in an operation aimed at regaining control of a major opium trafficking hub for the Taliban.

Pentagon officials tell VOA that troops were in position and expected to move into Marjah, a town with a population of 80,000, soon. Officials estimate NATO forces could face anywhere from a few hundred to up to 1,000 Taliban fighters.

The offensive is the largest combat operation since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in December.

On Friday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan that U.S. officials say wounded several U.S. soldiers.

The attack took place Thursday at a joint U.S.-Afghan military base in eastern Paktia province, near the Pakistani border.

Meanwhile, Afghan and coalition forces say they are investigating an incident in the Gardez district of Paktia province.

The forces released a statement Friday saying Afghan and international security force members found the "bound and gagged" bodies of two women, along with two dead men, in a compound in the district.

The statement says the bodies were found during a security force operation late Thursday that resulted in the deaths of several suspected militants and the detention of eight men.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.