NATO launches major offensive in southern Afghanistan
US-led NATO troops have launched a massive offensive against insurgents in southern Afghanistan— the biggest combat operation in the country since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Fearing for their safety, hundreds of war-weary Afghan families have packed their belongings and left Marjah district in Helmand province, taking shelter in safer areas.
The offensive began with helicopters carrying US troops into the city in the early morning hours. British troops then flew into the northern part of the nearby Nad Ali district, followed by combat tanks.
Helmand, besides the neighboring Kandahar, has all along served as the breeding ground and nesting place for insurgents ever since their forcible ejection from power more than 8 years ago. The city has about 80,000 to 100,000 residents.
The attack was aimed at establishing Afghan government authority over the region and breaking the Taliban grip over a wide area of their southern heartland.
NATO says three American soldiers have been killed after a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar, but their deaths were not part of the new campaign.