KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces have retaken a southern district from the Taliban as part of a drive to weaken the insurgents' hold on Helmand province and push them back from around its capital, Lashkar Gah, officials said on Monday.
A two-day offensive launched on Saturday saw security forces take the district center of Nawa, to the south of Lashkar Gah, killing more than 50 fighters and destroying vehicles and equipment, said defense ministry spokesman, General Dawlat Waziri.
The operation would continue with security forces moving further south along the main road to the town of Garmsir, officials said.
The recapture of Nawa district, from where the insurgents threatened Lashkar Gah, reflects renewed focus by Afghan forces and their U.S. advisers on Helmand, an insurgent heartland that is source of much of the world's illegal opium.
The Taliban, fighting to re-establish strict Islamic rule in Afghanistan and drive out international forces backing the government in Kabul, control large stretches of the province and have targeted Lashkar Gah.
It was not possible to independently verify the defense ministry's casualty figure and no comment on insurgent losses was immediately available from the Taliban.
(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Robert Birsel)