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ISAF raid caused '$100 mln damage in Kandahar'

A major coalition military operation under way in Kandahar has caused about 100 million dollars worth of damage to property in Afghanistan's volatile southern province, a government delegation said on Tuesday.

President Hamid Karzai dispatched a delegation led by one of his advisers to assess damage caused by Operation Omaid, which started in April and aims to root out the Taliban in one of its traditional heartland areas.

The delegation reported back to the Western-backed leader, charging that the damage caused by the military offensive was worth over 100 million dollars, in part due to damage to crops, Karzai's office said in a statement.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier-General Josef Blotz said he could not comment as he had not yet seen the statement.

"As a result of military operation 'Omaid', significant property damage has been caused to the people in Arghandab, Zahri and Panjwayi districts in Kandahar province," the delegation's statement said.

"The operation was launched during harvest season and the damage caused to property and crops has cost more than 100 million dollars," it said the delegation had reported to Karzai.

Kandahar's economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and the province is particularly known for its crops of pomegranates, grapes and wheat.

The statement added that the delegation had urged Karzai "to urgently raise the issue with NATO forces and find a solution".

Operation Omaid -- Dari for "hope" -- is the biggest military offensive by the NATO-led international force since the start of the war in 2001.

The operation centres on Kandahar, a flashpoint of Taliban insurgency, and aims to drive out Taliban insurgents from villages ahead of the planned start of limited withdrawals of international troops in July.

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