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13 held in U.S. Afghan raids


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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. forces have killed three anti-coalition fighters and captured 13 others in weekend raids in Afghanistan's mountainous border region near Pakistan, a military spokesman said.

According to Lt. Col. Brian Hilferty, Saturday's operation near Khalat in southeastern Afghanistan involved U.S. Special Forces, who staged a helicopter-based assault on a cave complex.

"We surprised them. We landed there," he said.

Three anti-coalition fighters were killed and five others were taken prisoner Saturday, another eight Sunday.

U.S. troops found anti-coalition propaganda.

Separately, two U.S. airmen were wounded at Baghram Air Base when they accidentally detonated a land mine. Hilferty said it is believed the mine was left over from an old conflict.

U.S. forces have been intensifying the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in recent weeks as Pakistani forces apply pressure from the other side of the border.

U.S. officials have said that ground troops and aircraft are expected to move into Afghanistan's southeastern border region near Pakistan in the days and weeks ahead to conduct operations against Taliban and al Qaeda remnants believed to be operating there.

Military officials said it is not expected that U.S. forces in Afghanistan will increase beyond the current level of 11,000.

Some additional reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft are expected to be deployed.

In recent weeks, officials have talked publicly about a "spring offensive" and a renewed effort to capture or kill bin Laden, but sources said this operation was long-planned.

U.S. officials have said publicly that the operation will be limited to the Afghan side of the border, but also acknowledge that Special Forces will be in the region.


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