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Coalition Troops Reclaim Southern Afghan Town

Helmand Province is one of the main battlegrounds between coalition and Afghan government forces and Taliban/Al-Qaeda insurgents (file photo) (AFP) July 19, 2006 -- An Afghan army commander says coalition soldiers have reclaimed a second southern town from Taliban control.

General Rahmatullah Roufi, an army chief in southern Afghanistan, told AP that hundreds of ground forces battled Taliban fighters and retaken the town of Garmser in Helmand Province. He declined to provide details on casualties.

The recapture of Garmser followed the taking back from the Taliban of Naway-e Barakzayi, in the same region, on July 18.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says the fighting has displaced thousands of people. Spokeswoman Rahilla Zafar said the IOM is working to relocate those people.

"So far, there have been 4,000 people estimated to be displaced, and [the IOM] is working with village elders to locate these people and to provide them with tents and food items," Zafar said.

Afghan government and foreign forces have stepped up a military offensive in recent days against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces that have reasserted their presence in southern Afghanistan.

(AP, Reuters)