Afghan district British soldiers died fighting to liberate falls to Taliban

Members of 5 Scots Regiment return to their base at Musa Qala, Afghanistan after a local patrol and mine clearing exercise in 2008
Members of 5 Scots Regiment return to their base at Musa Qala, Afghanistan after a local patrol and mine clearing exercise in 2008  Photo: Julian Simmonds/The Telegraph

The Taliban has overrun and captured Musa Qala in Helmand province, an opium-rich district centre once protected by British soldiers, in yet another sign that Afghan security forces are struggling to contain the insurgents’ growing power.

British and US forces led the fight against the Taliban in Musa Qala for several years prior to their withdrawal from Helmand in October last year. More than 20 British soldiers died to protect the desolate town, located in Afghanistan’s volatile south.

Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura died when the Warrior vehicle he was travelling in struck an explosive device in Musa Qala on November 15, 2008
Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura died when the Warrior vehicle he was travelling in struck an explosive device in Musa Qala on November 15, 2008  Photo: MoD/PA

According to Musa Qala’s governor Mohammad Sharif, Taliban fighters had ominously circled the district centre for the past five days. Mr Sharif said he plead for help from the Afghan government, but no assistance was dispatched.

At around 11pm on Tuesday night, “more than 100 Taliban fighters attacked," Mr Sharif told the Telegraph. "No one supported us." Local forces were quickly overwhelmed and forced Mr Sharif and other residents to flee, he said.

• Afghan town bathed in British blood once more at Taliban's mercy

The head of Helmand’s provincial council Haji Mohammad Karem Atal confirmed by telephone that at least 25 Afghan army soldiers and police died in the assault and more than 40 were injured.

The Taliban have reportedly since occupied the district governor’s compound, the hospital, and the local police station.

According to provincial officials, all contact with the Musa Qala district centre has been cut off, and it has been impossible to confirm the safety of residents left behind.

Sharif said he and dozens of others were currently crossing the desert to make their way to Gereshk, a town south of Musa Qala. He claimed the Taliban were still in pursuit of the group and he feared for their safety.

The Taliban have been threatening Musa Qala and neighbouring districts in past months, emboldened by the drawdown of NATO troops, who maintain only a small number of coalition forces in Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gar.

On Wednesday, two of those NATO troops were shot and killed on an Afghan military compound in Helmand by two gunmen wearing Afghan security forces uniforms. Their nationalities have not yet been identified.

Afghan officials across Helmand have been regularly calling for more assistance in past weeks, warning they are ill-equipped and lack the manpower to deal with the Taliban’s constant attacks in the embattled province.

On the run somewhere between Musa Qala and Gereshk, Mr Sharif once again implored for help. “Lashkar Gar [Helmand’s capital] is now under threat,” he said. “Now that they have Musa Qala, the floodgates will be open.”

The British in Musa Qala
26 Jan 2006
John Reid, then Defence Secretary, announces Britain will send more than 3,300 troops to Helmand as Nato forces push into southern Afghanistan.
24 Apr 2006
Mr Reid says: “We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction.”
18 May 2006
Taliban assault on Musa Qala district centre kills 20 Afghan policemen. Unit of nearby British troops sent to help.
Summer 2006
Temporary mission becomes the siege of Musa Qala. British and Danish troops fight off hundreds of Taliban. Combat so heavy that Chinook helicopters often cannot resupply troops.
October 2006
British commanders make a deal with the Taliban. Both sides will leave the town in the hands of neutral local elders. British troops withdraw.
02 Feb 2007
Taliban renege on the deal and retake the town.
07 Dec 2007
British and Afghans launch Operation Snakebite to retake Musa Qala
Summer 2009
British admit they are overstretched and have been fought to a stalemate in Helmand. Barack Obama says thousands more US Marines will be sent.
March 2010
British hand over Musa Qala to US Marines.
26 Oct 2014
British and American troops leave Helmand.
June 2015
Heavy fighting sees Taliban temporarily overrun parts of Musa Qala centre.
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Source : telegraph[dot]co[dot]uk
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