Rebels destroy Russian plane at Kabul airport

KABUL (AP) - Afghan rebels yesterday ignored a temporary ceasefire and fired a salvo of rockets into Kabul's airport, setting ablaze a plane sent to evacuate Russian diplomats and their families from the besieged capital. Four Russian commandos aboard the plane were injured escaping from the burning aircraft.

Two giant Ilyushin-76 military transport planes escaped the bombardment and ferried 120 Russian embassy staff, their wives and children safely out of Kabul with little more than the possessions they could carry with them. But before leaving the danger zone above Kabul airport, one aircraft made a daring return to the runway rutted by rockets to collect the injured commandos, who were wrapped in bloodied bandages. The planes then circled around the mountains that ring the city, spewing dozens of flares designed to deflect heat-seeking missiles fired on the aircraft.

The fleeing diplomats came under fire only hours after the start of a truce between rebels led by the fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the government. Mr Hekmatyar has sworn to destroy the Afghan capital unless the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbini expels a militia that once backed the Communist regime but later proved crucial in toppling it in April.