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34 dead as US troops battle Taliban rebels

Violence has intensified in recent months and the Taliban have been vowing to unleash a wave of attacks.
None | By Agence France-Presse, Kandahar
UPDATED ON MAR 29, 2006 07:47 PM IST

US-led troops battled Taliban rebels who attacked a base in south Afghanistan on Wednesday, leaving an American and a Canadian soldier dead along with at least 32 insurgents, officials said.

Coalition forces also destroyed two Taliban headquarters buildings containing weapons and bomb-making material during several hours of fighting in insurgency-hit Helmand province, a coalition statement said.

The attack was the biggest on a coalition base in months and came about two weeks after Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime pledged a new spring offensive.

Militants attacked the coalition base in Sangin district at about 2:30 am with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.

Coalition attack aircraft dropped three 500-pound bombs and two 1,000-pound bombs and also fired high-explosive rockets, guided missiles and incendiary rounds, spokesman Lieutenant Mike Cody told the agency.

Four coalition troops and an Afghan soldier were wounded in the firefight.

The coalition said at least 12 insurgents were killed in the initial effort to beat back a "significant enemy element".

It later reported a further 20 enemy casualties "as part of an early-morning engagement that continued into daylight hours as coalition forces defeated a large enemy element that was attempting to retreat into sanctuaries," the statement said.

The coalition then discovered large caches of munitions as they overran the Taliban buildings and the insurgents fled, the statement said.

"Coalition forces destroyed the munitions, which included weapons and improvised explosive device materials, causing multiple secondary explosions and destroying the compound and all enemy military equipment inside," the statement said.

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