- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) U.S. troops killed five guerrillas and captured 32 during a raid on a suspected al Qaeda or Taliban compound, the first gunbattle in weeks to involve American forces, a U.S. military spokesman said yesterday.
No Americans died or were hurt 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.
A top British commander, meanwhile, said the British-led "Operation Snipe" in the southeast was finished and succeeded in delivering a "significant blow" to the enemy. He said his forces destroyed "a vast arsenal of weaponry," as well as caves and bunkers used by remnants of Osama bin Laden's organization and the Taliban.
"It is true to say that we did not encounter the enemy during this operation," said Brig. Roger Lane, the top British commander in the coalition operation, at Bagram, 30 miles north of Kabul, the capital. But "from a strategic perspective, this is an encouraging sign."
"The fact that al Qaeda had been forced to abandon one of the most strategically well-placed and easily defended locations in Afghanistan speaks volumes for the military and psychological impact of the coalition's operations," Brig. Lane said.
During the U.S. special operations raid Sunday, enemy fighters opened fire at the approaching troops. "We returned fire and killed five and took 32 detainees," Capt. O'Connor said.
The captives were taken to Bagram "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.
No major figures were believed to have been netted in the raid, a Pentagon official told Agence France-Presse on the condition of anonymity. He said the compound was believed to be a Taliban rather than an al Qaeda hide-out.
"There were no big guys, we don't think," the official said.
In a separate operation, U.S. 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 empty-handed yesterday, a U.S. battalion commander said. Even as the hunt was on, two more rockets were fired close to U.S. soldiers.
About 130 troops from the Army's 101st Airborne Division were deployed Saturday near the eastern town of Khost to try to "find and destroy enemy forces that have been sporadically launching rockets" at U.S. forces based there, said Maj. Bryan Hilferty, another spokesman at Bagram.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Patrick Fetterman, 40, of Coopers- town, N.Y., said there was no enemy contact, but troops found burn marks on the ground and fuse casings where rockets had been recently launched.
"He had been there recently, he wasn't there when we got there, but sooner or later we'll be in the same place at the same time," Col. Fetterman said.
Four rocket attacks had been reported over the last month, and two more rockets were fired early yesterday, Maj. Hilferty said. All the missiles exploded a few hundred yards from Khost air field, where several dozen U.S. special forces are based.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld referred to the latest operation in comments to reporters, saying "there were some Taliban and al Qaeda captured as well as a number of caches of weapons.

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