Families Flee Southern Afghan District as Taliban Takes Over VillagesBy VOA News
17 June 2008
Afghan National Army searches passengers at checkpoint in Arghandab district near Kandahar, 17 Jun 2008 Thousands of people are leaving their homes in southern Afghanistan, as Afghan and NATO troops prepare to confront hundreds of Taliban gathering in the region.
Witnesses say Taliban fighters have planted land mines and blown up bridges in Kandahar province's Arghandab district Tuesday. They say about 500 militants have taken over at least eight villages.
But the U.S.-led coalition says a patrol of the area showed no evidence that militants are in control. Despite that, NATO planes have been dropping leaflets urging people to stay indoors in case of fighting and local officials have imposed a curfew.
Arghandab is lush with pomegranate groves and farm fields. The unrest has forced many people to abandon their harvests.
The district lies just north of Kandahar city, a strategic hub long sought by the Taliban.
Kandahar is one of the few major cities in southern Afghanistan, and the birthplace of the country's royal families as well as President Hamid Karzai.
Many of the Taliban fighters massing in Arghandab today are believed to be among the nearly 1,200 prisoners who broke out of Kandahar's main prison last week. They escaped with the help of a suicide bomber who blew open the prison gates.
A U.S.-led invasion pushed the Taliban from power in 2001, but supporters of the extremist Islamist group remain a deadly threat to the tens of thousands of foreign forces that remain in Afghanistan.