The second rebel rocket barrage on Kabul in a week destroyed a Soviet arms dump and three aircraft at the airport and killed at least 14 people, including seven children playing in a schoolyard, officials and witnesses said Friday.
Afghan officials said 16 other civilians were injured in the attack on the mountain-ringed Afghan capital by U.S.-armed Moslem guerrillas at about 3:15 p.m. Thursday.A Soviet source had indicated there were Soviet casualties. A report by Tass, the official news agency, put the casualty toll at nine dead and 16 injured but did not mention Soviet casualties.
There was confusion over the number of rockets fired, with foreign diplomats counting 15. A Soviet source said at least 40 fell in the initial strike, followed in the evening by eight more.
The Soviet source criticized the Afghan military command over the attack, which followed a massive barrage last Saturday that killed at least five people, wounded 32 and temporarily closed the airport, where Moscow maintains troops and a large air base.
"The Afghans know the approximate position points from where the bandits fire on Kabul and they keep them under constant artillery fire but this barely seems effective," he said.
"I think this attack will push the (Afghan) high command to do something. Politically, it is very humiliating," he said.
Afghan officials said at least 10 people died in the strike. Seven of them were children playing in a schoolyard in the Microrayon area, an upper middle-class neighborhood of Soviet-style apartment blocks where numerous Soviet and Afghan government officials live.
"I looked out my window and saw only torn-apart children," recounted Microrayon resident Parveen Qayumi. "Everything was covered in blood."
Officials said four other victims, including a woman and a child, were killed near the airport. Three people died when a projectile landed on a house near the headquarters of the United Nations Childrens Education Fund, paramilitary troops stationed at the U.N. facility said.
Most of the rockets landed on the Soviet military base at the northern end of the Kabul airport, detonating tons of munitions stored in an ammunition dump and setting fire to a large store of runway tar that sent columns of black smoke snaking skywards.
Firemen fought the flames for four hours before bringing it under control, said a Soviet source, who added that the ammunition dump was devastated.
A Western diplomat said at least three aircraft, including a helicopter, and a hangar were destroyed.
Western correspondents were refused access Friday to the airport area, but a Western diplomat who drove along Perimeter Road, which circles the facility, saw charred debris and hunks of metal littering the ground.
A Soviet civilian who was at the airport's military annex when the attack occurred said he saw chain-reaction blasts shoot from the ammunition dump after it was hit.
A Soviet helicopter was taking off when the initial explosion occurred and was hurled back to earth by the shockwave, bursting into flames, he said. The crew escaped unhurt, he added.
In Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry delivered a protest note to the Soviet ambassador in Islamabad over an attack Thursday by Afghan warplanes on Pakistani villages, officials said. The note said the attack was a violation of the May 15 Geneva accord on the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan.
It warned Kabul of "serious consequences" if such attacks did not cease and asked Moscow to restrain Kabul from staging further raids.
In Washington, U.S. officials condemned the Soviet air strikes and vowed to file protests with the Soviets and the United Nations.
"This is the latest and most extreme incident of armed intervention from Afghanistan against Pakistan's territorial integrity," said State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley. "The United States government condemns this act of aggression against Pakistan."