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MAIWAND DISTRICT, Afghanistan — The U.S. military said Friday it had killed 11 Taliban during a raid that targeted a roadside bomb cell believed to be responsible for a string of recent attacks that have killed a number of foreign soldiers in Kandahar province.

The suspected cell leader was killed and two others were detained after a firefight in Maiwand district, about 40 miles west of the provincial capital of Kandahar, U.S. Forces Afghanistan said in a statement.

The military said the soldiers first called for everyone in the compounds to surrender, but were met with heavy machine-gun and rifle fire.

The military said the soldiers did not return fire until women and children had left the buildings and were moved to a safe location.

“Moving under enemy fire, coalition forces (then) engaged the barricaded militants with small-arms fire and hand grenades,” the statement said. “After neutralizing the threat, the force searched the buildings, discovering eleven militants were killed.”

They also found a woman inside who had been wounded in the leg by grenade fragments. She was taken to a military hospital for treatment and was expected to recover. A man from the village was allowed to accompany her, out of respect for local customs, the statement said.

The soldiers found dozens of landmines, at least 15 rocket-propelled grenades, several PKM machine guns, multiple AK-47 rifles and bomb-making materials, according to the statement. The soldiers destroyed the weapons and munitions, and secondary blasts from the landmines destroyed one of the buildings, the statement said.

The military said the Taliban cell was “responsible for multiple roadside bomb attacks including recent attacks which killed multiple ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers.”

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are at their highest level ever since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the fundamentalist regime from power in 2001. At least 290 foreign soldiers, including 154 U.S. troops, have died in Afghanistan this year, the highest annual death toll since the war began.

As news of the raid began to circulate Friday morning, hundreds of villagers poured out onto the highway that links Kandahar to the city of Herat to protest the incident, said Maj. Cale Brown, executive officer for the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, which is based in Maiwand.

“They set up a number of roadblocks, and they burned some stuff on the road. They vandalized some things, but there was no long-term damage to the infrastructure,” said Brown. “It was an angry demonstration.”

Two platoons of U.S. soldiers, plus Afghan army troops and police, set up a cordon to keep the demonstration from getting out of control until passions cooled, but otherwise did not interfere, Brown said.

U.S. forces met with the district leader and tribal elders to explain why the raid had occurred, and details were broadcast by local radio outlining what had taken place, Brown said.

He said that no U.S. troops or villagers were injured during the demonstration.


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