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Troops seize Taliban stronghold

British forces have been consolidating a "significant gain" after seizing the last Taliban stronghold in an area of southern Afghanistan.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment worked with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to clear the town of Sayedebad, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The success of Operation Tor Shezada was announced as the deaths of two more British soldiers in separate incidents were revealed, taking the death toll to 327.

A soldier from 1st Battalion Scots Guards was killed by small arms fire in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province on Sunday and a Royal Marine, from 40 Commando, died in an explosion while on foot patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand province on the same day.

Operation Tor Shezada, which translates from Pashto as "black prince", began on Friday to push insurgent fighters further from the population centres cleared as part of Operation Mostarak earlier this year.

Soldiers moved out under the cover of darkness and patrolled through fields and waist-high irrigation ditches to reach the outskirts of the town, where they cleared two compounds of possible insurgents and IEDs.

Once a foothold was achieved and defensive positions were established in the compounds, two joint units of British and Afghan soldiers moved forwards, clearing through the town on the west and east sides from the south. Afghan security forces were used to interact with the local Sayedebad population at each stage.

Major Darren Newman said: "The company, along with our Afghan partners, has cleared through Sayedebad and we have systematically cleared through each of the compounds looking for insurgent activity.

"As we have pushed through we've found nothing to suggest the Taliban have been here in the last 48 to 72 hours. It appears the presence of overwhelming forces from ISAF and the ANA has effectively meant the insurgents have fled out of this area before we arrived."

Once the village had been cleared, a Shura, or local meeting was held with the elders of the town to explain what had been happening.

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