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Troops Raid Taliban Compound

Two incidents of allied military forces engaging enemy fighters in Afghanistan were reported over the last day.

U.S. and coalition forces raided a suspected Taliban leadership compound in Afghanstan, killing one and detaining 50 fighters, the U.S. Defense Department said Friday.

And members of a reconnaissance team shot and wounded or killed two attackers in the first firefight for British forces in Afghanistan, retaliating after attackers shot at their camouflaged position, a spokesman said.

Gen. Peter Pace said U.S. and coalition forces were fired upon as they entered the compound west of Kandahar on Thursday night. They returned fire, he said, killing one and wounding two others. There were no American or coalition casualties. Pace provided no details on the 50 detainees. He said the "initial processing" of the detainees was in progress.

The 12-member British team was camouflaged about 250 yards from a road in the countryside of eastern Afghanistan near Khost when it came under fire Thursday morning, Lt. Col. Ben Curry said. It was unclear whether the attackers belonged to al Qaeda or the Taliban. They may have been aligned with a local warlord, the spokesman said, adding it was unclear how the attackers discovered the team, which was trained to hide for days, covertly watching an area for activity.

With the British hidden so far from the road, it is doubtful the gunmen spotted the soldiers and opened fire. The distance "would perhaps suggest that they knew (the soldiers) were there already," Curry said.

Five men in a car fired at least 10 rounds at the British team from the road, Curry said. The British troops fired back, hitting two. Two vehicles pulled up and men loaded the two bodies into one of them and drove off. It was not known whether the two men were killed or wounded.

The British didn't fire on the second two vehicles because they didn't pose a direct threat, Curry said. The occupants "were not firing at them. For all we know there may have been women and children," he said.

Two French Mirage fighter planes followed the vehicles, which then disappeared from view.

Since British forces arrived at Bagram base north of Kabul in April, they have conducted three major sweeps involving hundreds of troops in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. They have found huge weapons caches, but the incident reported Friday was the first combat for the British forces.

A senior British military official said foes of the U.S.-led coalition are likely to try car and truck bombs, drive-by shootings and other similar tactics. Coalition troops will have to adapt, the official said. Al Qaeda and Taliban forces are thought to have broken up into small groups and gone into hiding since Operation Anaconda, a major battle with coalition forces further north in mountainous eastern Afghanistan in March. Some are thought to have crossed the border into western Pakistan.

In Washington, the House of Representatives passed $29 billion in spending for the fight against terrorism overseas - and at home - as the two parties grappled in a bitter election-year spat over war and the growing national debt.

Democrats and Republicans alike strongly backed the money the package would provide. Billions would be showered on the military, on Afghanistan and other U.S. allies, on rebuilding New York, and on the Coast Guard, explosive detection devices for airports, and other anti-terror initiatives.

Even so, the measure's 280-138 passage came only after bleary-eyed lawmakers had battled until nearly 3 a.m. The overnight session highlighted a GOP resolve to not start lawmakers' Memorial Day recess without passage of a counterterrorism bill.

In other developments:

  • A good turnout to select representatives from southern Kandahar - the spiritual heartland of the deposed Taliban - to next month's loya jirga or grand council bodes well for the process, United Nations officials said. Thousands of people gathered in schools to select their representatives to the loya jirga, which will be held from June 10 to 15, to select the new government that will run the war-torn nation for the next 18 months.
  • The United Nations voiced concern on about Pakistani police harassing and arresting Afghan refugees, extorting money from them or demanding their eviction. A spate of incidents in the capital Islamabad neighboring areas followed the murder of two policemen earlier this month by suspected Afghan robbers. At the same time, Afghan refugees have been returning to their homeland in droves - 650,000 in three months alone from Pakistan, 59,000 from Iran and more than 9,000 from Tajikistan, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
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