KABUL, July 19: Hundreds of troops were scouring southernmost Afghanistan for Taliban fighters on Wednesday after securing two districts the militants had overrun more than 24 hours earlier.

Afghan flags were again flying above the headquarters of the remote desert districts of Garmser and Naway-i-Barakzayi in Helmand after Taliban hauled them down late on Monday, the defence ministry said.

Coalition and Afghan troops entered and secured the Naway capital on Tuesday and then moved southwards to Garmser on Wednesday.

“The Afghan army hoisted the flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Naway district yesterday and in Garmser today,” said defence ministry spokesman Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi. “Only two soldiers were wounded.”

The coalition said the forces had met almost no resistance.

In Naway town, 20km south of the provincial capital, villagers said the militants had fled before the troops arrived, a coalition statement said.

“The police station and a school had been damaged by the extremists and many school books were destroyed. Two caches of mines and rocket propelled grenades were left behind by the fleeing Taliban,” it said.

Troops defeated “enemy resistance” outside Garmser town further south overnight and moved in at first light to secure the town, entering unopposed.

Security forces had begun searching for the militants, an interior ministry spokesman said.—AFP

Updated Jul 20, 2006 12:00am

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