37 die as rebel jets bomb besieged Kabul

PETER GRESTE

Reuters

Kabul - Rebel jets bombed residential areas of Kabul yesterday, killing 37 people and wounding more than 140 in the heaviest air raid on the besieged Afghan capital in more than a year.

A Defence Ministry spokesman blamed the rebel Islamic Taliban militia, who are attempting to topple President Burhanuddin Rabbani, for the attack. At least nine bombs were dropped by SU-22 planes, none hitting a military target, he said. The ministry also accused neighbouring Pakistan of responsibility, saying that it had "strong evidence" indicating Islamabad's technical and financial aid in repairing the SU-type jets Taliban seized from the western town of Herat in August. Pakistan rejected the charge, saying that it had given no such assistance.

At least 12 people died when one bomb destroyed three homes and severely damaged four others in the western suburb of Wazirabad. Neighbours said the device was a 1,100lb parachute bomb that exploded in the air. A similar bomb killed seven people when it destroyed a three-storey mud-brick building in the central district of Qalai Fatullah. Dozens of rescuers dug frantically through the rubble but found only corpses, including the bodies of two infants.

"This is the most barbaric war," cried one neighbour as he watched the rescuers cover a two-year-old child dragged from the dust. "The Taliban are more cruel than Genghis Khan. Even the Russians were not as bad as these people," he said. Two smaller parachute bombs exploded above the Supreme Court compound in Qalae Zaman Khan, east of the city, killing seven people.

The air raid followed two nights of heavy fighting between the Taliban and government forces. The Taliban is attacking Kabul on at least four fronts in a bid to capture the city and force Mr Rabbani from power. It has also imposed a fuel blockade on the capital in an apparent attempt to freeze the defenders into submission over the coming winter.

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