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US troops close Taliban escape route before attack – AP Wire

February 11, 2010

Feb 11, 2:55 PM EST

US troops close Taliban escape route before attack

By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU and CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA

NEAR MARJAH, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. and Afghan soldiers linked up with Marines on the outskirts of the Taliban stronghold of Marjah on Thursday, sealing off escape routes and setting the stage for what is being described as the biggest offensive of the nine-year war.

Taliban defenders repeatedly fired rockets and mortars at units poised in foxholes along the edge of the town, apparently trying to lure NATO forces into skirmishes before the big attack.

“They’re trying to draw us in,” said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, 30, of Tulsa, Okla., commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.

Up to 1,000 militants are believed holed up in Marjah, a key Taliban logistics base and center of the lucrative opium poppy trade. But the biggest threats are likely to be the land mines and bombs hidden in the roads and fields of the farming community, 380 miles (610 kilometers) southwest of Kabul.

The precise date for the attack has been kept secret. U.S. officials have signaled for weeks they planned to seize Marjah, a town of about 80,000 people in Helmand province and the biggest community in southern Afghanistan under Taliban control.

via Daily Record | Morris County NJ | AP Wire.

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