30 April 2008

Marines launch assault in Helmand province

U.S. Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit wish one another well as they prepare to leave in convoy from a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan, Monday April 28, 2008. AP Photo/David Guttenfelder.

OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan (AP) — Marines stormed into a Taliban-held town before daybreak Tuesday, trading gunfire with insurgents on the ground and using helicopter gunships to destroy a militant compound in one of Afghanistan's most violent regions.

Several hundred Marines, many of whom have fought in Iraq, reportedly met light resistance in the assault, which is the farthest south in years that American troops have operated in Helmand province.
"We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun," [Maj. Tom] Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. "They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there."

The assault on Garmser was the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived in April from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a seven-month deployment.
Attack helicopters "obliterated" a compound used as a base by the insurgents, said Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass. He said he didn't if anyone was killed by the airstrike.
Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Capt. John Moder, 34, a company commander from North Kingstown, R.I., said before the assault began that the experience in Iraq would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan.

"These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting),but it's reconstruction and economic development," he said.

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