Afghanistan Helmand province Taliban
An Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle is seen parked at an outpost in Helmand province, AfghanistanAbdul Malik/Reuters

As many as 140 Taliban militants have been killed in Marjah town located in Helmand province when Afghan security forces mounted counter-terror operations. Authorities say most parts of the southern province have come under their control following the offensive.

In the dusty agricultural town of Marjah, the initial anti-terror operation which was led by foreign forces was later strengthened by the Afghan troops. Provincial police chief Brigadier General Abdul Rahman Sarjang told reporters clashes were still on in the restive districts.

"We have had a lot of achievements from this operation and we will continue until we free Marjah from Taliban," said the police official. Sarjang added that a key route – which was blocked due to terrorist activity for nearly two years – leading to Marjah has been freed.

Sarjang said aerial and ground troops coordinated the counter-offensive against the Taliban insurgents and insisted most of the districts have been fortified so as to prevent a comeback by the extremists. Local reports suggest Afghan forces were initially hesitant to press on but were later encouraged by the foreign troops' onslaught. Taliban has, however, denied Marjah has been retaken by Afghan forces.

Fighting has been intense in recent days after the Taliban militants launched a surprise attack in the volatile Helmand province – yet again underscoring the challenges faced by security forces against the backdrop of the withdrawal of US and UK military personnel.

On 5 January, an American soldier was killed and two others were injured in Marjah in a battle. A US rescue helicopter was also brought down while another one was waved off due to heavy ground fire.