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Taliban fighters holed up in Afghan villages near Kandahar

RIA Novosti

17/06/2008 13:29 KABUL, June 17 (RIA Novosti) - Taliban fighters have taken over villages outside Afghanistan's second largest city in the south as NATO and Afghan troops are moving in.

The invasion by the Taliban into the Arghandab district comes three days after the Islamist group, ousted from power after the U.S.-led military operation in 2001, mounted a daring attack on Kandahar's prison, freeing some 1,100 prisoners, including over 350 Taliban militants.

The Arghandab administration head, Mohammad Farooq, said about 500 militants had seized several villages in the district forcing residents to flee their homes. He said additional international and Afghan forces were moving in.

The mass jailbreak started Saturday when two suicide bombers in gasoline trucks blew up the prison gates and destroyed a perimeter wall. Dozens of militants on motorbikes then attacked the jail killing 15 guards.

The assault came after President Hamid Karzai told a news conference in the capital that he would send troops into neighboring Pakistan to track down Taliban leaders in response to militants infiltrating Afghanistan from Pakistan.

NATO runs the 52,000-strong International Security and Assistance Forces (ISAF) in the country.

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