Military commanders raised the Afghan flag in the bullet-ridden main market of the Taliban's southern stronghold of Marjah on Wednesday as firefights continued to break out elsewhere in town between holed-up Taliban and US and Afghan troops.
About 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops are taking part in the offensive around Marjah, a town of about 80,000 people that was the largest population center in southern Helmand province under Taliban control. NATO hopes to rush in aid and public services as soon as the town is secured to try to win the loyalty of the population.
With the assault in its fifth day, an Afghan army soldier climbed to the roof of an abandoned shop and raised a large bamboo pole with Afghanistan's official green-and-red flag. A crowd including the provincial governor, a few hundred Marine and Afghan troops and handfuls of civilians — Afghan men in turbans and traditional loose tunics who were searched for weapons as they entered the bazaar — watched from below.