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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 21:03 GMT
UK troops battle Taleban fighters
The fighting took place shortly after dawn
More than 100 British troops have taken part in a four-hour battle with Taleban fighters in southern Afghanistan.

They fought near their base at Camp Price, near Gereshk, Helmand province, as they looked for sites to build checkpoints to keep insurgents away.

A company of Royal Marines were ambushed about 0645 local time by rebels hiding in trenches nearby.

Major Ewen Murchison, who fought in the battle, said: "That is one of the fiercest fights we've been in to date."

The force included marines from J Company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando and from Arbroath-based 45 Commando, which Maj Murchison commanded.

British troops were supported by Danish and Estonian troops, as well as the Afghan National Army.

The fight began after the British force went to an area 5km from their base as part of Operation Bauxite to install permanent vehicle checkpoints.

The measures are the result of the request from locals to stop the Taliban coming into their town and also to keep the British base out of range of rebel mortars.

Multinational forces were attacked by up to 50 Taliban fighters who emerged from irrigation ditches near the hamlet of Habibolah-Kalay .

Maj Murchison said: "There were 35 to 50 Taliban flying at us from numerous fire positions in and around the compounds and trenches employing their classic 'shoot and scoot' tactics."

British troops responded to the attack with small arms and machine guns, before resorting to mortars and artillery.

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