Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Six Nato troops die in Afghan fighting

A Nato soldier puts barbed wires on top of the protective walls around a newly setup joint Afghan and Nato base in Marjah on 18 Feb 2010
Nato-led forces said they were still meeting with resistance in Marjah

Nato forces in Afghanistan say that six of their soldiers have been killed in a single day during their major offensive against the Taliban in the south.

Two of those who died on Thursday were British; the nationalities of the other four have not been given.

Nato says it is investigating an air strike which killed seven Afghan policemen in the Kunduz province.

The officers were mistakenly hit after a joint Nato-Afghan patrol was ambushed by Taliban insurgents, officials said.

On Thursday, Isaf said four Nato soldiers had died and Britain's Ministry of Defence confirmed that two Britons were among them.

Then, in a brief statement, Isaf said two further service members had died during Operation Moshtarak on Thursday.

"One service member was killed by small-arms fire and another died following a separate small-arms fire incident," it said.

'Tough resistance'

Operation Moshtarak, which means "together" in Dari, began a week ago in the southern province of Helmand.

Map of Afghanistan showing Helmand and Kunduz provinces

About 15,000 Afghan and Nato troops, mostly US and British, are battling Taliban in and around the town of Marjah.

While military officials say that they have secured much of the area, the threat from sniper fire and improvised explosive devices remains.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Afghanistan says that in the town of Marjah US Marines and Afghan troops are facing tough resistance from Taliban fighters.

On Friday morning helicopters dropped 24 soldiers into an area of Marjah where sniper fire was concentrated.

The Nato commander of southern forces - Maj Gen Nick Carter - has said that it could take up to 30 days to clear the town.

He said that more time would be needed after that to fully gauge the operation's success.

But a tribal leader told BBC Pashto on Thursday that local people were essential to policing the area effectively.

"As long as you don't get local people involved in the security, you will not be able to protect this area," Haji Abdurahman Sabir said.

Nato officials said on Thursday they had learned from intercepted Taliban communications that the insurgents were running low on ammunition and have called for support.

Afghan commanders have also said the Taliban in Marjah are using civilians as human shields to deter attacks from the US and Afghan troops.

More than 1,200 families have been displaced and evacuated from Marjah and are currently in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

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