Marjah nearly entirely secure

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It's the sixth day of the massive Marjah offensive. US and Afghan forces have taken control of the main roads, bridges and government centers of the Taliban haven, although pockets of insurgents remain.

Speaking via satellite link from Helmand in Afghanistan, a senior UK military official says troops are close to entirely securing Marjah.

Nick Carter, British Major General of ISAF Regional Commander, said, "I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that of which needs to be secured and we will probably won't know for about 120 days whether or not the population is entirely convinced by the degree of commitment that their government is showing to them. So I guess looking downstream, in three months time or thereabouts we should have a pretty fair idea of about whether we have been successful. "

The aim of the latest assault was to follow Taliban fighters who escaped the first wave of the Operation.

US Marines pummeled insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles as gunbattles intensified during the day.

But there were also pockets of calm. Several families returned to their homes in a sign that some civilians believe the fighting is over in zones secured by NATO and Afghan troops.

Abdul Hai, captain of Afghan National Army, said, "The good thing is that when we came here most people wanted to leave their homes and we told them that we are here for your security and they went back to their houses and an old woman came out and wished us the best of luck."

Five NATO service members and one Afghan soldier have been killed since the attack on the town began. NATO had previously reported six deaths, but said on Thursday that one death had mistakenly been reported twice. NATO says over 120 insurgents have been killed.

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