Taliban, Marines exchange fire as battle looms

US Marines and Taliban fighters exchanged gunfire Thursday on the outskirts of Marjah, a southern terrorist stronghold where American and Afghan forces are expected to launch a major attack in the coming days.
To the north, a US-Afghan force led by the US Army's 5th Stryker Brigade linked up with Marines on Thursday, closing off a Taliban escape route to the nearby major city of Lashkar Gah.
No casualties were reported in the scattered clashes, which broke out as Marines moved ever closer to the edge of the farming community of 80,000 people, the linchpin of Taliban influence in the opium poppy producing province of Helmand.
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