CBNNews.com - Taliban militants have gained control of several villages near Kandahar, destroying bridges and planting mines in preparation for battle, officials said Tuesday.
On the west side of the Arghandab River, hundreds of Taliban controlled around nine or 10 villages, said Sardar Mohammad, a police officer manning a checkpoint on the east side of the Arghandab River.
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More than 4,000 people fled the area Tuesday. Police stopped and searched every person passing on the road.
Strategic Fighting Positions
The Taliban have long sought to control Arghandab because of the strategic fighting positions it offers. From there, militants can easily cross the countryside to attack Kandahar.
On Tuesday, the Afghan army flew four planeloads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital, Kabul. They said about 300 to 400 militants had gathered in Arghandab.
However, the U.S.-led coalition said it "found no evidence that militants control the area" after they conducted a patrol of the region.
"Recent reports of militant control in the area appear to be unfounded," the coalition said in a statement.
Still, NATO felt it was necessary to drop leaflets via aircraft in Arghandab telling residents to stay indoors, NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.
"Keep your families safe. When there is fighting near your home, stay inside while ANSF defeat the enemies of Afghanistan," Laity quoted the leaflet as saying.
The push into Arghandab district - a lush region filled with grape and pomegranate groves that the Soviet army could never conquer - came three days after a coordinated Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgent fighters.
The hardline Taliban regime ousted from power in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan regarded Kandahar as its main stronghold. Its insurgent supporters are most active in the volatile south of the country.
The U.S. and NATO have pleaded for additional troops over the last year and now have some 65,000 in the country.
Source: The Associated Press.