Sabrina Tavernise

American and Afghan forces seized what the U.S. military called the single largest drug cache to date in a four-day operation that began on Tuesday in the south of the country.

The seizure by Afghan army commandos and U.S. forces took place in Marjeh, a town in Helmand province, the U.S. military said in a statement on Saturday. In all, soldiers found more than 101 tonnes of narcotics, including heroin, poppy seeds, opium and hashish. Large amounts of heroin processing materials were also confiscated, the military said.

Heroin is a major source of income for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the U.S. military has said it would be a major focus of future operations as more troops are moved into Afghanistan this summer.

The drugs were taken in a central market area in the town. A battle ensued in which, according to the U.S. military, 60 insurgents were killed. An American military spokesman said the allies met a surprising level of resistance, fighting the militants for four days in gunbattles and by aerial strikes. The military said that commandos also found bomb-making materials, including 30 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, pressure plate triggers, military grade explosives and ammunition vests.

The spokesman for the U.S. forces, Col. Greg Julian, said the operation had “severely disrupted,” one of the main narcotics hubs in southern Afghanistan. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service