OUTSKIRTS OF MARJAH (AFP) NATO on Sunday described determined resistance in some areas including Marjah with bombs and sporadic gunfights during Operation Mushtarak in the province of Helmand. Afghan police prepared to take control of a town at the centre of a US-led offensive against the Taliban, as trapped residents said they were running out of food. About 15,000 Afghan and NATO troops faced tough fighting as Operation Mushtarak entered a second week, with gunfights and mines bogging down attempts to secure the Nad Ali and Marjah areas. Civilians locked down by bombs sewn across the conflict zone were facing increasingly desperate conditions, but officials were hopeful that an elite Afghan police force would soon be able to control parts of Marjah township. General Muhaidin Ghori, the Afghan National Army commander for Helmand province, said that about 600 police with the newly established Public Protection Police Force had expanded their positions day-by-day since Friday. They are in Marjah centre, in the bazaar, he told AFP. We are busy carrying out the clean-up and search operations to provide the grounds for establishing the opportunities for installing permanent posts and bases for the police to take up their policing duty. Fully securing the target area in the central Helmand River valley however could take another month as troops led by US Marines strive to clear the innumerable bombs planted by the militants. NATO on Sunday described determined resistance in some areas including Marjah with bombs and sporadic gunfights, adding that battlefield commanders believe the clearing phase... will take at least 30 days to complete. But Daud Ahmadi, the Helmand provincial governors spokesman, said despite the police presence in Marjah, government authorities did not yet have complete control of any target areas, including the main market seized on Wednesday. The market remained closed, he said, with civilians still unable to move freely because gardens, roads and paths were heavily mined. Thousands of people have already fled the combat zone, and those still in the area face soaring food prices, a shortage of supplies and little medical care. People who are ill cannot get to hospitals and others cannot bring them medicines. They cannot get food or even go outside to look after their farms, said Ajmal Samadi, head of the independent group Afghan Rights Monitor. Marjah resident Abdul Ghias, 53, told AFP by telephone the bombs made it impossible to move in or out of the township, adding: Most people cannot get hold of medicine or food. So far, 12 soldiers with NATOs International Security Assistance Force have been killed in the assault, billed as the biggest offensive against the insurgents since a 2001 US-led invasion toppled the Taliban government.