May 13, 2008 / 12:56 PM / 12 years ago

Thousands displaced by fighting in Afghan south: U.N

KABUL (Reuters) - Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of fighting between U.S.-led forces and Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan this month, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

In the latest incident in Garmsir district in the southern province of Helmand, coalition forces killed around a dozen militants on Monday in a joint air and ground operation, the U.S. army said on Tuesday.

“The information that I that some 1,200 families have become displaced from that district (Garmsir) because of the recent fighting,” said Mohammad Nader Farhad, a spokesman for the U.N. agency for refugees in Afghanistan, citing government estimates.

Of the 1,200 families, 900 have ended up in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, while the rest have gone to Registan district, Farhad said.

Frustrated by the failure of NATO allies to send troops to the south, the United States sent 3,200 Marines in March to bolster NATO-led British, Canadian and Dutch forces engaged in daily clashes in the region.

Late last month, the Marines launched their first large operation since arriving and were said to have taken control of

Garmsir in Helmand, the world’s biggest opium-producing region and a hotbed of insurgent activity.

“Because of the insecurity, we don’t have access to those areas and that’s why we cannot verify exactly how many have become displaced. There are probably more,” Farhad said.

A joint United Nations and government team will be providing food and non-food items to meet the basic needs of the refugees, he said.

According to the U.N. more than 150,000 have fled their homes in Afghanistan as a result of recent years of fighting between Taliban militants and foreign troops.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday that it provided assistance to over 15,000 internal refugees in southern Afghanistan from January until April.

Editing by Sayed Salahuddin and Valerie Lee

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