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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 December 2007, 09:09 GMT
'Rebels killed' near Afghan town
British soldier patrols Musa Qala on 15 December 2007
Musa Qala has faced rocket attacks almost daily since the Taleban left
The Afghan army has killed four rebels in the first fighting near Musa Qala since it was captured from the Taleban last week, the defence ministry says.

The insurgents died in a shoot-out east of the town during a search operation which found arms, ammunition and police uniforms, said Afghan officials.

The clash near the former Taleban stronghold in southern Helmand province came as residents began returning home.

Thousands of UK, US and Afghan troops seized the town five days ago.

Most shops and businesses are still shut and civilians are said to be wary of a Taleban counter-attack, despite hundreds of troops now being based in the town.

Rocket attacks

Several rockets - thought to have been fired by fleeing Taleban - struck the town on Saturday.

Men in Musa Qala
Wary residents want security to be restored

Musa Qala has faced Taleban rocket attacks almost every day since they left.

One resident, Wali Mohammed, told the BBC he had counted the bodies of 15 women and children after the battle for the town, although his account was impossible to verify.

British officials strongly denied the claim, insisting they were aware of only two civilian deaths.

The UK defence ministry said two children had been killed when the Taleban ordered a family in a car to drive at speed towards international forces.

Map

Troops had believed the vehicle was being driven by a suicide bomber and opened fire, according to UK defence officials.

The assault on Musa Qala was carefully planned to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because of the impact of the civilian deaths is counter-productive for international troops, the BBC's David Loyn reports.

The British have offered to build a mosque, schools and a health clinic, but one man angrily told the BBC he did not need any of that, he just wanted security.

The Afghan army, supported by a small British base, will now aim to hold the town.

It is remote, at the end of a vulnerable supply route and a prime target for counter-attacks by the insurgents.

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