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Four NATO Troops Die in Marjah Assault

Four NATO service members have died in the sixth day of a major military offensive to claim control of a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

NATO said Thursday night that three were killed in two different roadside bomb attacks and a fourth died as a result of small-arms fire.

U.S. and Afghan forces have taken control of the main roads, bridges and government centers of the Taliban haven of Marjah, but pockets of insurgents remain. The southern offensive in Marjah is the biggest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and a test of President Barack Obama's strategy for reversing the rise of the Taliban while protecting civilians.

Special Report: Afghanistan

The deaths came as fighting intensified Thursday, with Marines pummeling insurgents with mortars, sniper fire and missiles.

Marines traded machine-gun fire after coming under attack by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades. One Marine company attacked Taliban positions surrounding them at dawn.

CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, reporting from the front, said she could hear single-shot sniper rounds on top of the machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades as the Marine's Lima company engaged militants in an intense firefight.

"That's pretty typical of when the Taliban decides to go toe to toe with the military … They throw everything they have into the fight."

The Taliban have also littered the area with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and homemade bombs Clark reports.

"Yesterday our convoy hit one and just moments ago on the same main bit of road, another convoy hit an IED," she told CBS' "The Early Show" by phone.
More coverage from CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark:

Marines Reach out to Marjah Population
Marines Drive Into Afghan Stronghold
Marines Engage Taliban on Edge of Marjah
Afghanistan: Life on the Frontline

Nine NATO service members and one Afghan soldier have been killed since the attack on Marjah, the hub of the Taliban's southern logistics and drug-smuggling network, began Saturday. About 40 insurgents have been killed, Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal said.

NATO has confirmed 15 civilian deaths in the operation. Afghan rights groups say at least 19 have died.

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