Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

More than 100 killed in Kabul attack

KABUL - At least 100 people were killed here in the worst bombardment in two months as fighting at the weekend shattered a government plan agreed a week ago to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Hospitals were filled to capacity less than 24 hours after rockets rained on the city, while shopkeepers in market areas hit by rockets asked Allah to punish those responsible for the attack as they dug through rubble.

'See those things,' said a shopkeeper in the rocketed Pooli Baghemume area, pointing to blood- splattered debris. 'Those are human remains.'

Heavy artillery fire was exchanged for several hours on Saturday between militias inside the city aligned with the government and forces of the Hizbe Islami party led by the radical Pathan leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar massed in the Charasiab district nine miles south of Kabul.

Rockets hit homes, markets and guest houses in heavily populated Kabul. A rocket also hit the US embassy, destroying an administrative office and narrowly missing a caretaker.

The United States pulled out of Kabul in February 1989. The embassy is closed, and Afghans take care of its upkeep. Doctors said that more than 10 hospitals in Kabul were filled to capacity with wounded and they were sending home some people who normally would have been admitted as in- patients after dressing their wounds. 'We don't have stretchers, we don't have beds. This is a tragedy,' said Nasser Foshangy, a doctor at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital. Kabul has been without electricity or water since midday on Saturday.

No side was claiming responsibility for starting the rocket attack, the first since early May. It is threatening to kill off the attempts by the new government, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Islamic professor sworn in on 28 June, to bring peace.

An official close to the Defence Minister, Ahmed Shah Masood, said, however, that the ministry was sure the rocketing had been started by the Hizbe Islami. He said one reason why the Hizbe may have started the attack was that the government was refusing the party's plan to bring its guerrillas into Kabul yesterday, when Hizbe's commander Abdul Sabbur Fareed was supposed to arrive to become prime minister in the new government. Mr Fareed's arrival has been postponed because of the attack, and he may now come today, the Hizbe said. 'One hundred people were killed that we know of,' the official said.

Another reason for the attack may have been a clean-out operation which began last week and which aims to remove armed rebels who have roamed streets and occupied buildings since the collapse of the Communist government on 28 April, the official added. The Hizbe is not taking part in the clean-out operation. Hizbe officials yesterday denied that their side had started the firing, and said that when they began to respond they had hit only military targets.

(Photograph omitted)