UPDATE 3-Hundreds flee as battle looms in Afghan south

UPDATE 3-Hundreds flee as battle looms in Afghan south
Wed Jun 18, 2008 1:16am

By Jon Hemming

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of families fled their homes in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday as Afghan and foreign forces prepared for an offensive to confront Taliban fighters who have overrun several villages.

About 600 Taliban insurgents took over the villages in Arghandab district on Monday, days after they freed hundreds of prisoners following an attack on the main jail in Kandahar city.

Extra Afghan and NATO-led soldiers were sent to the area in a "show of force", Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Corbould, commander of the Canadian battle group within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told reporters.

"The movement of troops has taken place without significant incident thus far and it is clear that Kandahar city remains firmly under the control of the Afghan government," he said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said militants were eyeing Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban who U.S.-led troops drove from power, which is 20 km (12 miles) south of Arghandab.

"After occupying Arghandab, the Taliban's next target will be Kandahar. But, we will not attack Kandahar with rockets and heavy mortars. We will hit specific targets in the city," Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

The insurgents had taken control of eight villages in Arghandab, the defence ministry said in Kabul
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