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U.S. Raid Kills Five In Afghanistan

British Royal Marine sits next to arms and munitions in one of the caves in southeastern Afghanistan, Friday, May 10, 2002, where they found what was described as a large weapons cache believed to belong to the Taliban or al-Qaida. The find came as part of Operation Snipe, a 1,000-man, British-led mission in the mountains of Paktika province.(AP Photo/Phil Hannaford, Pool)
In the first gun battle in weeks involving American forces, U.S. special operations troops raided a compound suspected of holding Taliban or al Qaeda leaders in southern Afghanistan, killing five men who shot at them and taking 32 into custody, U.S. military spokesmen said Monday.

Meanwhile, a two-week search operation by mostly British forces in eastern Afghanistan dealt a "significant blow" to al Qaeda, the top British commander in the U.S.-led coalition said Monday. Announcing the end of Operation Snipe, Brig. Roger Lane said "a vast arsenal of weaponry" had been destroyed.

In Washington Monday afternoon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the end of Operation Snipe didn't mean the end of the military effort, citing the new capture of holdouts in eastern Afghanistan Sunday.

No Americans were killed or injured in the late-night raid Sunday in the village of Deh Rawod, about 50 miles north of Kandahar, said Capt. Steven O'Connor at Bagram air base.

During the raid, people inside the compound opened fire, he said. "We returned fire and killed five and took 32 detainees."

The detainees were taken to Bagram, north of Kabul, "to see who we've got and what they know," said a U.S. Central Command spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley. U.S. forces also found a sizable cache of weapons and ammunition at the compound, he said.

In a separate operation, American troops swept through the rugged hills of eastern Afghanistan searching for the culprits behind a series of rocket attacks on U.S. forces in the volatile area, but came back Monday empty-handed, a U.S. battalion commander said. Even as the hunt was on, two more rockets were fired close to U.S. soldiers.

Rumsfeld praised Operation Snipe, which was begun on April 28, and involved about 1,000 British and Afghan troops.

"It was helpful, we appreciate the work that the coalition did can be said that some non-trivial caches of weapons have been discovered in recent days," he said.

The mission was part of Operation Mountain Lion, the U.S.-led search for Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.

"I don't doubt for a minute that there are pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda across most of the borders of Afghanistan," Rumsfeld told reporters outside the Pentagon Monday.

Earlier Monday, two rockets were fired near a U.S. military unit in eastern Afghanistan, but nobody was hurt, Sur Gul, the security chief in the town of Khost, said. And a British military spokesman said two Chinese-made rockets aimed at British troops in southeastern Afghanistan were found and dismantled by a local warlord.

A number of missiles have been fired at or near the U.S. forces in Khost, in the restive Paktia province. Nobody has been killed, but there have been injuries.

In another incident, which Gul said indicated continuing support for the Taliban in the area, a boy of about 15 threw a grenade at a music cassette shop in Khost Monday, injuring the shopkeeper. The hard-line Taliban banned music during their rule.

In other war-related developments:

  • A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Bryan Hilferty, said American and Afghan troops had found 2,000 large caliber rounds of ammunition in a cave in north-central Afghanistan.

  • U.S. officials believe a letter partially drafted by U.S. postal worker now in custody may have had a role in the death of an Afghan resistance leader, the Washington Post reported Monday. Authorities believe that Ahmed Abdel Sattar, 42, helped write a letter of introduction for two men who posed as journalists to kill Gen. Ahmed Shah Massoud in northern Afghanistan last fall.