Rebels pounded Kabul with more than 50 rockets, killing 23 people and wounding 60 in a daylong attack on the 11th anniversary of the 1978 military coup that brought President Najibullah's Soviet-backed party to power, official radio said.
The Thursday attack came as a rebel leader in Pakistan blamed extraordinarily cold weather for delaying the offensives that will topple the "demoralized" Afghan government. And rebels condemned the 1978 "Saur Revolution" by Soviet-trained soldiers that installed Najibullah's People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.Najibullah, for his part, ignored the rocket attack to make a defiant speech ridiculing forecasts his government would fall to guerrillas, who are armed by the United States, China and Arab nations and based mainly in Pakistan.
State-run Kabul Radio reported 23 people, including women and children, were killed and 60 were injured in the rebel rocket attacks.
It said two mosques and a number of houses were damaged in the barrage, seen as the heaviest against Kabul since last September, when as many as 100 rockets hit per day.
Explosions began echoing across the mountain-ringed capital about five hours before Najibullah addressed a gathering at the presidential palace of some 800 officials and members of his Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan, military officers, diplomats and foreign guests.
The attack persisted throughout his hourlong speech and continued shaking different parts of the city throughout the afternoon.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Amani said at least 54 rockets crashed into Kabul. He said no targets of military or economic value were hit.
"The extremists say we are a communist government," Amani said. "One cannot say these women and children (who died Thursday) were communists."
He said most the rockets were believed to have been fired from as far as 18 miles from the city's defense perimeter and triggered by timing devices.