Marines push Taliban out of Marja and sieze Taliban headquarters
MARJAH, Afghanistan-- As the battle to secure the Taliban's most populace stronghold in Afghanistan rages, U.S. Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines pursued insurgents that had regrouped south of the Marja town center on Friday and captured a Taliban headquarters.
The headquarters contained photos of Taliban fighters posing with AK-47 rifles, Taliban-issued ID cards, Taliban letterhead stationery, government stamps, and graduation diplomas from a Taliban training camp in Pakistan.
On Friday, Marines surrounded the stronghold and encountered small arms fire from insurgents and Taliban snipers, but were able to drive the Taliban out.
Capt. Joshua Winfrey of Tulsa, Oklahoma, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines said, "They know that they are outnumbered ... and that in the end they don't have the firepower to compete with us conventionally." Winfrey further commented, "It seems that it's their last stand."
The Marja offensive began Feb.13 and is the biggest offensive that U.S. troops have engaged in since the beginning of the Afghanistan invasion following the 9/11 terrorists attacks. 12 NATO soldiers have been killed so far and it's estimated that 120 Taliban fighters have been killed during the offensive.
As the Marines advanced, they found rows of abandoned bunkers dug alongside an irrigation canal that the Taliban had used to fire on them the day before. Located at a crossroads, the five abandoned bunkers, camouflaged under a layer of mud, looked out across an open field. In the near distance, large stones had been set up to help the Taliban site in on their targets.
The insurgents had fled with their weapons and ammunition. The Marines said they'd been coming under fire all day -- but never saw any of the elusive gunmen, who retreated to resume hit-and-run tactics using snipers and small gun squads to harass Marine lines.