50 killed as Afghan rebel base bombed


AFGHAN government jets heavily bombed rebel positions of the capital Kabul yesterday, killing at least 50 people, a defence ministry official said.

The official said 20 others were as the jets targeted a building at Charasyab base, 5 km south of Kabul, where commanders of the Taleban Islamic militia were meeting to discuss plans for their war against the government.

The official Kabul Radio later put the death toll at 51, saying the jets also hit rebel positions at Bagh-i-Zakhira in the south.

Taleban forces fired four rockets at Kabul's Chehlsitoon area, killing at least one person and wounding three others, said the broadcast monitored in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

"It was a pre-emptive strike by the government," the defence ministry official said of the bombing. "We dropped four bombs, two of which hit the venue of the Taleban gathering at Charasyab."

Two bombs landed on a former oil reserve 5 km from Charasyab, he said.

Earlier, a Pakistan based Afghan news service said forces loyal to President Burhanuddin Rabbani also directed artillery fire at Charasyab.

The Taleban reoccupied Charasyab in October, six months after losing it to government forces.