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12 Afghans Surrender After Firefight

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2003 – U.S. Special Forces soldiers came under heavy weapons fire Feb. 10 as they patrolled an area north of Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

The soldiers were on a mounted patrol when anti-coalition forces opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, U.S. officials said. The patrol drove through the fire and called for close-air support. Coalition aircraft dropped precision-guided munitions on targets and then strafed the area. There were no U.S. casualties.

The commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Afghan national army later arranged the surrender of 12 men loyal to a local warlord. The 12 had fled into the hills and hid in area caves; they turned over their weapons and ammunition to the 2nd Battalion.

The incident continues a string of isolated attacks on coalition forces. On Feb. 7, coalition forces came under fire southwest of Gardez.

There have been mortar and rocket attacks on coalition targets in the country. U.S. Central Command officials said it is sometimes difficult to tell whether an attack was directed at the coalition or was fighting among rival Afghan factions.

Operation Mongoose near Spin Boldak is winding down. Troopers of the 82nd Airborne Division continued cave destruction in the Adi Ghar Mountains. The operation began Jan. 27. At least 18 Afghan fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were killed.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister, had been generally thought to be an unaligned, renegade guerrilla leader. Flyers distributed last year in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, however, claimed Hekmatyar had joined forces with al Qaeda terrorists.

At Mongoose's height, 300 to 350 coalition troops were involved. Coalition forces cleared more than 75 caves.

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