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Afghan Taliban team visits China, discusses `occupation`

PESHAWAR: A delegation from the Taliban visited China earlier this month to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the militant movement is fighting the US-backed government, sources in the Taliban said.

A delegation led by Abbas Stanakzai, head of the Taliban`s political office in Qatar, visited Beijing on July 18-22 at the invitation of the Chinese government, a senior member of the Taliban said.

`We have good terms with different countries of the world and China is one among them,` said the Taliban official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

`We informed Chinese officials about the occupation by invading forces andtheir atrocities against Afghan people, he said.

`We wanted the Chinese leadership to help us raise these issues on world forums and help us get freedom from occupying forces.

The visit was confirmed by other senior Taliban figures who did not want to be named because they were not authorised to speak on behalf of the Qatar political of fice.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gains made by Taliban AnimportantdistrictinAfghanistan`s poppy-growing province of Helmand has fallen under Taliban control after heavy fighting that killed around 17 policemen, an official said on Saturday.

The director of Helmand`s provincial council, Kareem Atal, said that Taliban militants attacked a series of police checkpoints on Friday night as part of alarger assault in the Kanashin district.

Earlier, his deputy, Abdul Majeed Akhonzada, said that Kanashin district had `fallen into Taliban hands`.

The fall of the district, which borders Pakistan and major poppy-producing districts, meant the `Taliban are in control of 60 per cent of Helmand, Akhonzada said. Much of the areas of Marjah, Sangin, Garmser and Dishu districts have already fallen to the Taliban, he said.

The district police chief and deputy head of the local branch of the national intelligence agency were critically wounded in clashes, he said.

Precise casualty figures can`t be confirmed as fighting was still under way, he added. He said that bodies still littered the ground.

Atal said troops had been deployed to retake the district, but it would be a difficult task `because the Taliban have destroyed all the checkpoints`.