(Reuters) - At least 700 Taliban fighters have crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan to attack a key dam, a major source of electricity, a provincial governor said on Monday.
Here are some key facts about the Kajaki dam, which has seen major fighting in recent weeks between the Taliban and NATO forces, mainly British and Dutch.
- Located on Helmand river in the province of the same name, the dam supplies most of the electricity to the southern cities of Kandahar, Lashkar Gah and surrounding areas, It irrigates about 142,000 hectares (285,000 acres) of farmland.
- It has been the scene of regular clashes between the Taliban and the international peacekeepers guarding it. Violence forced work on refurbishing the dam to stop in 2006.
- NATO forces have been engaging the Taliban in the last few weeks to establish a “security perimeter” around the dam site to enable repairs to commence.
- First constructed by the Soviets in 1953, the dam’s hydroelectric plants, with a generating capacity of 33 megawatts, were installed by the United States in 1975.
- Part of the hydro-power system was damaged in U.S. bombing in late 2001, launched after the then ruling Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is funding the project, hopes to repair the two existing power generating units and add a third, almost doubling the amount of electricity generated. USAID, which is also financing the setting up of new power transmission lines, hopes that all the work will be completed in 2009.
Sources: Reuters; www.usaid.gov