At least 32 alleged insurgents were killed Tuesday when U.S.-led coalition forces launched a raid targeting a roadside bomb cell in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

According to a press release issued by United States Forces — Afghanistan from Kabul, the raid killed "32 armed insurgents including one female" and ended with one detainee in custody and the destruction of two large weapons caches.

Up to 75 armed militants were involved in the battle; no coalition casualties were reported. The raid took place in the Alishang district of Laghman province, about 60 miles northeast of Kabul, officials said.

"The targeted Taliban network was involved in planning, building and emplacing roadside bombs as well as attacks against civilian and Coalition forces throughout 2008," according to the military.

According to U.S. military officials, the militants came flooding out of compounds in a village "and attempted to converge on the force," firing small arms from rooftops and alleyways.

The troops decided against calling in close-air support or artillery, a tactic that has in the past caused civilian casualties and angered Afghans and their government.

Instead, officials said, the troops chose to return small-arms fire.

"Maneuvering under enemy fire, Coalition forces carefully escorted eight women and 16 children away from [the] engagement and protected them from the reckless small-arms fire militants sprayed throughout the village," the news release read.

According to U.S. spokesman Col. Jerry O’Hara, the troops "exercised great restraint and prevented any civilian casualties at the same time the enemy placed the whole village in harm’s way by operating the way they do."

It was impossible to verify all details of the U.S. account of the incident, but the repeated emphasis on protecting civilians indicates how sensitive the issue has become.

Over the past year, as fighting has picked up amidst a renewed Taliban insurgency, hundreds of civilians have died as the result of either coalition raids or militant attacks. Afghan government officials have repeatedly called on Western nations to do more to protect civilians, and the issue has become a sore point between it and the NATO military mission.

There are some 70,000 international troops in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials have said they will add more than 20,000 additional troops in the coming year.

Violence in the last year has reached new heights, with nearly 300 Western troops having been killed — the most in a single year since the war began in October 2001. And, according to the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, insurgent bomb attacks doubled last year to around 2,000.

In Tuesday’s raid, troops found AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, PKM machine guns and blocks of explosives bundled together, officials said.

"Because of the unstable nature of these explosive munitions, Coalition forces had no other option but to destroy the caches in place," the release read.

"After moving the women, children and locals living in surrounding structures to a safe location, Coalition forces destroyed the cache. Secondary blasts from the unstable explosives destroyed the building they were hidden in."

According to wire reports, the deputy governor of Laghman province said the explosions might have killed civilians, though he gave no specifics. U.S. officials denied the claim.

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