KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The U.S. military said Tuesday it killed 10 suspected rebels and captured more than 100 other people in a four-week old operation it has billed as the largest since the fall of the Taliban two years ago.

Two Afghan soldiers also were killed, while two Afghans and two coalition soldiers were injured in action during Operation Avalanche, which ended Monday after four weeks, a military spokesman said.

The operation involved more than 2,000 U.S. troops in an area of southern and eastern Afghanistan the size of California, though there were no major skirmishes. U.S. troops and soldiers from allied nations such as Romania carried out hundreds of patrols and searches, uncovering weapons caches and making arrests.

“Most important is what didn’t happen,” Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said at a news conference, citing the reopening of a key highway to the south that has been plagued by militant attacks and an apparent slowdown in attacks on aid workers. He gave no details on when the arrests were made or under what circumstances the rebel suspects were killed.

Still, the start of the operation was overshadowed by the deaths of 15 children in raids on suspected militants. In both cases, the chief suspect escaped.

Avalanche was also supposed to keep militants on the defensive during a historic constitutional convention, or loya jirga, which began in the capital, Kabul, more than two weeks ago.

So far, the gathering has gone ahead without any serious disruption.

Still, at least five rockets have been fired into the city, and on Sunday, four Afghan intelligence agents died in a blast as they attempted to arrest a suspected terrorist carrying explosives.

None of those incidents occurred near the convention, which is guarded mainly by members of the new Afghan National Army, a U.S.-trained force which currently numbers about 7,000 men.

The new army took possession Tuesday of 24 new trucks donated by India, the first of 300 vehicles including jeeps and ambulances pledged by Delhi last year.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, whose National Guard unit is leading the training, said the vehicles would fill shortfalls in equipment hampering the Afghan army from getting more involved in combat operations.

AP-ES-12-30-03 0624EST

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