London, June 18 : Following last week's jailbreak by hundreds of Taliban fighters, in which nearly 400 dread Taliban escaped, British troops have been flown into Kandahar to hunt down the escaped Taliban and also help regain control of the city.
Chinook aircraft carried paratroopers from "3rd Bn", The Parachute Regiment, low over rooftops into the city's football stadium. They were flown directly from their operation against the Taliban in neighbouring Zabul province. And, immediately, the troopers fanned out into the city to overwhelm the insurgent strongholds that have sprung up since Friday.
They quickly put in place vehicle check points and stopped cars to look for suspected bombers or escaped prisoners.
Lt Col Huw Williams, the commanding officer of 3 Para, said: "The main idea is to secure the city and protect the people and the functions of government. There are key areas that we want to secure and identify if the insurgents are defending them."
"We are looking at lockdown in Kandahar city and reasserting government control and to reassure the local population. If the Taliban are grouped together in one place then it is a huge opportunity for us to find them and defeat them where they are. It is going to be tough for our soldiers because it always is in an urban situation," The Telegraph quoted the commanding officer as saying.
Senior British officers described the operation as a "lock down" to push the insurgents out of the neighbouring Arghandab district. Thousands of Afghan civilians have fled the area since the militants escaped from a prison in Kandahar after a suicide bomb and gun attack.
Taliban fighters were reported to have blown up bridges and planted mines yesterday as they awaited a coalition assault. Scores of Taliban are also thought to be heading into the city from Pakistan and other areas of Afghanistan after their leadership called for the retaking of the city that was the movement's spiritual base during its rule from 1996 to 2001.
Earlier, this week hundreds of Afghan Army troops flew into Kandahar air base in readiness for an assault. Intelligence sources estimate that at least 400 Taliban were holed up in the city.
Yesterday's deployment came after Gordon Brown announced that the British force in Afghanistan would be boosted to more than 8000 troops, the highest level since operations began in 2001.
Taliban militants have launched their most sophisticated attacks in recent months, raiding a five-star hotel in January and opening fire on a televised military parade attended by President Hamid Karzai in April.