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Other News: U.S. Marines Storm Taliban Stronghold

August 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news, Marines launched an offensive in Afghanistan, storming a Taliban compound in Helmand province. Also, government troops in the Philippines attacked militants tied to al-Qaida.
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, 400 U.S. Marines, backed up by Afghan soldiers, launched a new offensive in southern Afghanistan. They stormed a Taliban town in Helmand province in a helicopter air drop before dawn.

The U.S. and Afghan troops traded heavy fire with insurgents in an all-day battle. Commanders said the goal was to secure a critical district before next week’s presidential election.

CAPT. ZACHARY MARTIN, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines: Dahaneh is one of the key towns in the area. All of the smaller towns are economically dependent on Dahaneh. For example, this is where the bazaar is.

So by liberating Dahaneh, we free the local populace from the influence of the Taliban. They’re able to go about their daily lives without being faced with intimidation or murder.

JIM LEHRER: By nightfall, Taliban fighters still held the town and the fighting intensified. Marine officers said the combat should last several days.

In the Philippines, government troops attacked militants tied to al-Qaida and killed at least 20 of them. The assaults on a southern island hit jungle camps used by leaders of the group Abu Sayyaf. It was unclear if any of the top militants were killed, but the military said fierce fighting lasted all day.

Heavy rain in southern Taiwan held up the search today for survivors of a powerful typhoon. Hundreds of people may be missing, and hundreds more are still waiting for help, four days after the deadly storm. We have a report narrated by Jane Deith of Independent Television News.

JANE DEITH: Reaching people cut off by Typhoon Morakat is difficult and dangerous. This rescuer will have to be rescued. Off camera, the rope the boat’s hanging from snaps. Luckily, driftwood stops him being washed away.

You can see why getting to survivors is taking time. In Shiao Lin, which was flattened by the flood, people are being brought out alive, but it’s a slow and risky operation.

This man, winched to safety, said many others were buried under the mud.

FLOOD SURVIVOR (through translator): The flood just came in. Nobody can escape.

JANE DEITH: Taiwan’s national fire agency has said 100 people might be dead in Shiao Lin. The mudslide left just two houses standing.

But around 200 people were found alive this morning. Everyone had feared they were dead.

Survivors are being flown to this school, which has been turned into a rescue center. The president came today and said he’s doing everything he can, but some people are angry, saying the help has come three days too late.

TAIWANESE WOMAN (through translator): The rescue team should have started on the first day. Now the 72 golden hours have already passed. How could they do this?

JANE DEITH: The president will decide tomorrow whether to increase Taiwan’s disaster budget to cope with these floods, the worst in half a century. Local officials say they need water pumps and generators and help clearing the major roads.

In the towns, people have begun to think about trying to stop disease spreading. But in the remote areas, where people scrambled up the hills to escape the mudslides, leaving everything behind, the priority is just to get food to the survivors.

JIM LEHRER: The official death toll in Taiwan stood at 63. The typhoon killed at least eight more people in mainland China.

Secretary of State Clinton spent this day in Nigeria urging political reforms in the oil-rich country. It was the fifth stop on a seven-nation African tour. Clinton called for Nigerian leaders to reduce corruption and promote democratic practices ahead of elections in 2011. In recent months, violence in Nigeria’s oil region has repeatedly disrupted output.

The U.S. won a crucial international trade case against China today. It could give American music, books and movies much greater access to Chinese markets. The World Trade Organization found Beijing had illegally barred attempts to market those products directly to Chinese customers. China could still appeal the ruling.

The U.S. federal deficit now tops $1.25 trillion with two months left in the fiscal year; the Treasury Department reported those figures today. The Obama administration expects the deficit to exceed $1.8 trillion when the fiscal year is over. That’s more than four times larger than last year’s record.