- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

12:59 p.m.

SANGIN VALLEY, Afghanistan (AP) — Hundreds of British troops swept into the lush poppy fields of southern Afghanistan today, drawing hostile fire at the start of a NATO operation to expel the Taliban from a valley stronghold.

More than 3,000 NATO and Afghan troops are participating in the operation, the latest effort to bring Helmand province under the control of President Hamid Karzai.

A long column of armored vehicles brought several hundred British soldiers to the Sangin Valley, near the town of Gereshk and Afghanistan’s strategic ring road that links the cities of Kandahar and Herat.

“It is all part of a longer-term plan to restore the whole of Helmand to government control,” said Lt. Col. Stuart Carver, a British commander. “You have to do it a piece at a time.”

The British soldiers came under attack from mortar rounds and machine-gun fire after they fanned out to patrol on foot.

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