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Coalition Forces in Afghanistan Face More Rocket Attacks - 2003-03-26

Suspected remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida launched more than a dozen rockets at coalition forces in Afghanistan Tuesday night. U.S. military authorities say more rocket attacks on U.S. troops could be tied to the war in Iraq.

Eleven rockets were fired at a U.S. base near the town of Shkin in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province. Three more rockets were fired at a U.S. base outside the town of Gardez, which is about 100 kilometers south of Kabul.

According to the U.S. military, the rockets did not land near U.S. forces and did not cause damage. The attack near Shkin came as U.S. forces launched air strikes against positions in the area where suspected Taleban and al-Qaida operatives were thought to be present.

On Monday a U.S. patrol near the Shkin base came under fire from unidentified gunmen, but no U.S. troops were reported injured.

Captain Alayne Cramer, a spokeswoman for the coalition forces at Bagram air base, says rocket attacks on U.S. bases have increased since the war in Iraq began last week and may be a form of retaliation. She says U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan are not reinforcing security because the soldiers are always alert for danger. "I think our service members have had a heightened sense of awareness, even before the war started in Iraq," said Captain Cramer. "The job here is dangerous, we are doing combat operations. So the soldiers have that sense in their minds. We are not taking any extra precautions. Our soldiers take their jobs seriously and they do what they need to do."

Elsewhere in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Afghan, U.S. and coalition troops continued with Operation Valiant Strike, their sweep of the Samighar mountains.

Coalition forces seized another large cache of weapons and detained four suspects for questioning, bringing to eight the number of suspects held since the operation was launched last week.

Valiant Strike is one of the largest military operations launched in Afghanistan recently, involving about 600 combat troops and hundreds of other support personnel.