Exodus as British set to attack Taleban
HUNDREDS of families have started to flee Musa Qala, a Taleban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, ahead of an "imminent" British attack.
Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, said yesterday the operation had started, but British military sources insisted they had not yet launched their assault.
Civilian families began evacuating the area after NATO aircraft dropped leaflets designed to terrify Taleban fighters.
"The leaflets were dropped in a specific area, targeting a specific group of individuals, saying, 'We are watching you'," a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. Pictures were used, instead of words, on leaflets because most people in Musa Qala could not read, he said.
Reconnaissance patrols by the Household Cavalry, the Scots Guards and the Royal Artillery have been pushing into Musa Qala district since 2 November to assess the Taleban positions and develop a plan of attack. At one point they were within a mile and a half of the town centre.
"The Afghan National Army and ISAF troops are going to go back in there, we're just not going to say when," the spokesman added.
Musa Qala has become a sanctuary for foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda since it fell to the Taleban in February. Any operation to retake the town is likely to involve house-to-house fighting.
British forces had hoped to secure the defection of a senior tribal leader, who controls thousands in Musa Qala.
Mullah Abdul Salaam, a former Taleban commander, was reported to be in secret talks with the Afghan government to fight alongside the British. But news of his alleged negotiations leaked, provoking a rift in Taleban ranks.
This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1902652007
Last updated: 06-Dec-07 00:55 GMT
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