Outskirts of Marjah: US Marines came under attack from insurgents armed with sniper
guns and rocket-propelled grenades as they geared up today to overwhelm a Taliban bastion in Afghanistan.
Thousands of Marines along with foreign and Afghan soldiers are taking up position around the town of Marjah in Helmand, which officials say is one of the last areas of the
southern province under Taliban control.
The flow of residents fleeing the imminent offensive has slowed, provincial officials said, after loaded-down cars, trucks, tractors and buses clogged roads from Marjah to
provincial capital Lashkah Gar for days.
"We have announced and told people in Marjah not to leave their houses as our operation is well planned and designed to target the enemy," said Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal.
"Civilians will not be harmed," he said. Another 75 families had left Marjah, on top of 164 families who left earlier, the spokesman said. Other officials have said more than 400 families have fled.
The operation, expected to begin in days, will be the biggest push since US President Barack Obama announced a new surge of troops to Afghanistan and one of the biggest since the 2001 US-led invasion defeated the Taliban regime.