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Afghan, NATO Forces Battle Militants for Control of Southern District

Villagers are fleeing their homes as Afghan and NATO-led troops battle Taliban militants for control of a district in southern Afghanistan.

The chief of police in Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib says civilians are fleeing the Arghandab district near Kandahar city because Taliban fighters are taking over their homes. He says at least 50 militants have been killed in three days of fighting and about 250 others have been surrounded by Afghan and international troops.

Three Afghan police officers and one Afghan soldier are also reported to have been killed.

The operation was launched to clear the area of Taliban fighters who captured several checkpoints. Militants moved into the Arghandab district following the recent death of a local pro-government tribal leader, Mullah Naqibullah.

The leader had keep militants out of his district.

This year has been the deadliest in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government in 2001. Taliban militants have established strongholds in the south and east, attacking U.S. and NATO troops and Afghan soldiers in ambushes and suicide bombings.

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