BAGRAM, Afghanistan – U.S. special forces opened fire on a group of armed men Friday during a pre-dawn operation to seize a building in southeastern Afghanistan, killing three and wounding two, a U.S. military spokesman said.
The identity of the men, who were armed with automatic weapons and at least one grenade launcher, was not known, said Col. Roger King said.
The 15 men were moving toward the approaching Americans, took up positions to defend the compound and appeared threatening, he said.
After a brief exchange of fire, the remaining men surrendered and were being questioned by the Americans, King said.
The U.S. troops, working with Afghan soldiers, then seized the compound, outside the town of Gardez, about 80 miles south of Kabul. King would not say why the Americans were targeting the building.
U.S. special forces have been searching for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters around Gardez and in other areas near the Pakistan border. The Gardez region is also home to feuding warlords, who have their own armed fighters.
King said the Americans closing in on the compound did not identify themselves to the armed men but were clearly visible.
South of Gardez, closer to the border, four rockets were fired at U.S. forces near the village of Lwara on Friday, exploding less than a half-mile away, King said.
The Americans opened fire on men they suspected of firing the rockets and called in airstrikes by A-10 gunships and other aircraft, but it was not known if any of the attackers were hit, King said. No bodies were found.
No Americans were injured in either engagement.
Meanwhile, a Polish engineer lost part of his leg while trying to clear mines at Bagram air base, the center of the coalition's campaign in Afghanistan.
The captain saw a mine near a gravel pit close to the base's main road, but stepped on another anti-personnel mine buried in front of it as a trap, said Polish Maj. Manusz Michalski. The captain's leg was amputated under the knee.
Polish troops are leading the effort to clear the large number of mines scattered around the air base, north of Kabul, which was used by the Soviets during their invasion of Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have become more elusive, breaking up into small groups and crossing back and forth over the Pakistani border, coalition commanders say. The presence of warlords' fighters has made it extremely difficult to determine who is enemy and who is not.
The targets of several recent raids around Kandahar in southern Afghanistan have insisted they had no connection to the Taliban.
Last week, U.S. troops raided a compound suspected of sheltering Taliban members west of Kandahar, arresting more than 50 people. King said Friday that all but five of those people had been released.