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March 22, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
U.S. Forces Arrest Two During Raids
U.S. Forces Arrest Two Suspects During Raids; Gunmen Kill Three in Attack on Afghan Army Post

The Associated Press


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BAGRAM, Afghanistan March 22

U.S.-led forces in southeastern Afghanistan captured two suspected rebels and seized a cache of ammunition and light machine guns in a broad new operation in the hunt for terrorists, an Army spokesman said Saturday.

Separately, attackers opened fire on an Afghan army post in the southern province of Kandahar on Saturday, killing three Afghan soldiers, a senior Afghan government official said.

The gunmen traded fire with soldiers in the Wath army post, about 20 miles south of Spinboldak, for about an hour, then fled, said Fazaluddin Agha, the head of administration in Spinboldak district, near the border with Pakistan. He said they were believed to be from the former Taliban regime or with the radical Muslim group Hizb-e-Islami.

The arrests Friday of two suspected rebels were part of Operation Valiant Strike, an offensive being conducted by 600 U.S. ground troops in villages and caves in the Sami Ghar mountains of southern Kandahar province, U.S. Army spokesman Col. Roger King said.

Afghan soldiers involved in the U.S.-led sweep have seized bombs, guns and ammunition and arrested 13 people, said Abdul Raziq, police chief of the Spinboldak district. Five of the men confessed to having links to the Taliban, he said.

"We have got information about other friends of these people and are looking to arrest them," Raziq said. He said U.S. forces and about 100 Afghan troops were patrolling the border with Pakistan in Spinboldak.

About 600 U.S.-led ground troops opened the operation at dawn Thursday about 60 miles east of the city of Kandahar, King said. Romanian infantry are also taking part.

King said attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Afghan militia vehicle in a separate incident on Saturday, injuring three militiamen. They were evacuated to a coalition military base near the eastern town of Khost for medical care. One man lost part of his arm; other injuries included burns and a broken leg, King said.

Aside from various reconnaissance missions in the area, Valiant Strike is the first offensive in Kandahar province's Maruf district, where Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has tribal links. Ground forces were backed by Apache attack helicopters and up to 400 support personnel.

The multinational coalition has launched more than a dozen large-scale offensives since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.

"The whole idea is never to let the enemy rest long enough to reorganize, regroup, recruit or retrain," King said.


photo credit and caption:
U.S. Army soldiers seen at the army base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Thursday March 20, 2003. About 1,000 U.S. troops launched a raid on villages in southeastern Afghanistan Thursday, hunting for members of the al-Qaida terrorist network in the biggest U.S. operation in just over a year, military officials said. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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