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Afghan troops and U.S. soldiers from the Italy-based 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne) rounded up nine suspected militants as they broke up an alleged bomb-making ring in southeastern Afghanistan during raids over the past several days, officials said Monday.

The arrests were part of “multiple offensive operations” in Paktika province over the past two weeks, the U.S. military command at Bagram air base said.

“Four suspected leaders and advisors of a criminal cell were detained in Spina Village, Omna district, along with Taliban propaganda on audio tapes and ammunition,” a release read. “Three others were detained in the Sharan district with improvised explosive device materials in their possession, including explosives, wires and cell phones.”

American military officials believe the men are responsible for manufacturing and placing a series of roadsides bombs in the area targeting U.S. troops and Afghan security forces.

Lt. Col. Timothy P. McGuire, 1st of the 508th commander, called the arrests a “significant blow” to insurgents in the area. The unit, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, deployed to Afghanistan from Vicenza, Italy, earlier this year.

Violence in Afghanistan has flared up throughout the summer as the country’s Sept. 18 parliamentary elections approach. Just this week, United Nations officials said it was encouraging all “non-essential” personnel to leave the country before the election.

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