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Seizure of Taliban’s stronghold 'significant'

British forces made a “significant gain” yesterday by seizing the last Taliban stronghold in an area of southern Afghanistan.

The bid to push insurgents out of central Helmand province began on Friday and is intended to drive insurgent fighters further from the population centres cleared as part of Operation Mostarak earlier this year.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment working jointly with the Afghan National Army (ANA), seized and held the last Taliban stronghold of Sayedebad yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said.

The troops 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 established in the compounds, two joint units of British and Afghan soldiers moved forward, clearing through the town on the west and east sides from the south.

Afghan security forces were used to interact with the local population at each stage.

Major Darren Newman said: “As we have pushed through we have 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.

“Local atmospherics appear to be good. The locals are welcoming and pleased with our presence.”

Once the village had been cleared, a meeting was held with the elders of the town.

Captain Jon Gilbody said: “There's still a long way to go and the mission will continue but this was a significant gain and we're progressing well.”

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