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Afghan Forces Free Dozens Of Prisoners From Taliban Jail

Members of the Afghan security forces stand around a lightly armored vehicle during an operation against Taliban fighters in Helmand province on December 25.

Afghan special forces have freed 59 prisoners from a Taliban jail in southern Helmand Province, officials said on January 2.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said 37 of the captives were soldiers, another seven were policemen, and the rest were civilians.

An operation to free the captives from the jail -- located just to the north of provincial capital, Lashkar Gah -- unfolded in the night on January 1, Waziri said.

In recent months, the Taliban has seized several district centers in Helmand, which borders Pakistan and sits on transport routes for lucrative drugs and weapons contraband.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Waziri dismissed suggestions that Helmand could fall to the Taliban entirely, but he said government forces faced a serious battle against insurgents there.

In an unusual appeal via Facebook on December 19, Helmand's deputy governor pleaded for urgent reinforcement and assistance from Kabul.

The worsening situation in Helmand prompted Britain to deploy a small unit of military personnel in the province in an advisory role last month.

Based on reporting by Reuters and