US: Troops kill 32 insurgents in east Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S.-led forces raided a Taliban bomb-making cell in eastern Afghanistan, killing 32 insurgents in a battle with scores of armed militants who shot at them from rooftops and alleyways, the military said Wednesday.

The firefight broke out Tuesday in Laghman province when as many as 75 armed militants converged on the troops, who were searching a number of compounds in the area, the military said in a statement. The 32 insurgents were killed when coalition troops returned fire.

The troops destroyed two caches of weapons and roadside bomb-making materials that were too unstable to move to another location, the statement said.

The firefight came ahead of an expected influx of 20,000 American troops into Afghanistan to combat a Taliban insurgency that has sent violence skyrocketing in the last two years.

More U.S. troops - 151 - died in Afghanistan in 2008 than in any other year since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban, and U.S. officials have warned the violence will probably intensify in the coming year.

Residents near the site of Tuesday's raid said nearby buildings collapsed when the troops destroyed the weapons cache, killing civilians, said Abdul Khaliq Hussiani, a lawmaker representing Laghman. He said at least 22 bodies, including women and children, had been recovered.

However, the military statement said troops moved civilians to a safe location before detonating the weapons. Spokesman Col. Jerry O'Hara said in the statement that the forces "prevented any civilian casualties."

The U.S. statement also said one of the militants killed was a woman.

The incident happened in Alishang district, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of the capital of Kabul.

In western Farah province on Wednesday, Afghan army and coalition troops killed six militants in raid on a compound, the U.S. military said in a separate statement.

Among those killed in the two-hour shootout were a man who conducted attacks on Afghan and coalition forces, and another who provided bomb-making materials to insurgents, the statement said. There were no civilian casualties reported, the military said.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said 12 insurgents and 11 civilians were killed in fighting Sunday and Monday in central Uruzgan province. Police had previously reported eight civilian deaths.

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