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No Christmas break for troops in Afghanistan

Senior officials from different countries are visiting their troops in the troubled province of Kandahar to share Christmas greetings.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 14:38 IST

Tens of thousands of NATO and US-led troops celebrated Christmas in insurgency-hit Afghanistan as the bloodiest year since the fall of the Taliban drew near a close.

Military officials from the 30,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the holiday offered them no pause in their hunt for Taliban militants.

"We're still operational. We'll have a Christmas meal and we'll have Christmas celebrations today with some music and other entertainments," ISAF spokesman Captain Andre Salloum said.

"We still got patrols, we never stop. It continues," he said, referring to an ongoing anti-Taliban operation in southern Kandahar province's Panjwayi district where hundreds of ISAF troops and Afghan security forces launched a major operation two weeks ago.

Senior officials from different countries were visiting their troops in the troubled province of Kandahar, the birthplace of Taliban, to share Christmas greetings, he said.

ISAF groups peacekeeping troops from 37 nations.

The US-led coalition comprises some 10,000 soldiers who are hunting remnants of the Taliban. The coalition troops celebrated Christmas in Bagram Air Field, their main military base north of Kabul.

"We had a Protestant service this morning and we'll have a Catholic mass this evening," spokesman Major Matthew Hackathorn told the agency from the Bagram base.

This year's Christmas was the fifth since a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime that followed the deployment of tens of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Despite the Taliban's ouster in 2001, Taliban loyalists are still able to carry out attacks on foreign troops and government targets.

Some 4,000 people including 1,000 civilians have died in this year, mainly in the Taliban-led insurgency. Dozens of foreign troops have also been killed.

First Published: Dec 25, 2006 14:19 IST