Explosions in Kabul, Afghan Opposition Blamed
Tuesday September 11 8:55 PM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Forces fighting Afghanistan ruling Taliban launched a helicopter missile strike at Kabul airport early Wednesday, destroying two planes, a Pakistan-based Afghan news agency reported.
Officials in Washington earlier denied that the blasts, which followed terror attacks in the United States, were a retaliatory U.S. strike on Afghanistan, which is sheltering Saudi militant and terror suspect Osama bin Laden.
The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), quoting its own sources, said Northern Alliance forces had destroyed two planes at Kabul airport and hit an ammunition dump nearby.
``AIP has learned from reliable sources that this attack was carried out by one helicopter... and two planes at the airport were destroyed,'' the agency said.
``There were explosions at the airport which set an ammunition depot on fire,'' it added.
There was no word on any casualties from the attack, which occurred as Kabul was under its daily night-time curfew.
Dramatic live television pictures on CNN showed explosions lighting up the night sky and tracer rounds being fired from the ground.
``In no way is the United States government connected with those explosions,'' Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington.
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan said there had been an explosion near Kabul airport.
``There has been some sort of explosion near the airport but I do not know how much damage there has been,'' Abdul Salam Zaeef told Reuters in Islamabad after contacting Kabul.
Residents in Kabul, which is largely in ruins after long conflict, said they heard loud explosions as at least one helicopter flew in.
``I heard some helicopters come and fired rockets and the Taliban fired back and the helicopters went away and now the situation is calm,'' said one resident.
The Taliban have been fighting guerrilla rivals north of Kabul, launching a fresh push against their positions Monday night after veteran opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood was wounded in an assassination attempt inside Afghanistan on Sunday.
The Taliban have denied involvement in that attack, which was believed to have been carried out by two Arabs posing as journalists.
No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks in the United States, in which two passenger jets plowed into New York's World Trade Center and another crashed into the Pentagon.
The hard-line Islamist Taliban moved to swiftly condemn the attacks in New York and said bin Laden was incapable of mounting such a complex operation from poverty-stricken Afghanistan.
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