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Explosion Shakes Kabul, Other Afghan Cities - 2001-10-17

Thunderous explosions have been shaking Kabul and several other Afghan cities, as the American-led raids aimed at flushing out Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network continue. Pakistan is saying the movement's leader remains unscathed.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quotes Ambassador Abdul Salaam Zaeef as denying reports of rifts within the Taleban leadership. He says the Taleban's position on suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden has not changed, meaning they will not turn him over.

The Taleban official again stresses that the movement's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is still alive, despite the continued bombardment of Taleban and al-Qaeda targets across Afghanistan

Meanwhile, in Washington, the U.S. officials acknowledged the bombing of a Red Cross warehouse, saying U.S. forces did not know the building was still being used by the aid agency.

But Mario Musa, the agency's spokesman in Islamabad, says the building was clearly marked by a red cross.

He says the incident represents a serious setback for the agency's operations in Afghanistan. "A number of materials was destroyed," Mario Musa continues. "This was basically non-food items such as blankets, tarps, plastic sheeting, the things we are distributing to the internally displaced people."

Mr. Musa says one of the agency's guards was injured in the bombing.

Witnesses say intense bombing raids also struck other parts of the country, including Kandahar and the northern town, Mazar-i-Sharif, which anti-Taleban forces say they are poised to take.

U.S. officials say their forces have wiped out many of the Taleban's key defenses since the start of the attacks, more than ten days ago.