The U.S. bombing campaign against terror targets in Afghanistan continues as witnesses report powerful explosions in the centers of Kabul and Kandahar. Sources in Afghanistan have confirmed the death of an aide to suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reports Abu Baseer al-Masri died after a grenade accident, and not from a U.S. bombing raid as had been reported earlier.
A London-based Islamic group had reported al-Masri's death on Thursday, saying he was killed by a U.S. bomb near Jalalabad last Sunday.
The Afghan Islamic Press agency says he died at a hospital in the eastern city two days ago after a grenade exploded in his hands.
It marks the first word of a casualty among the leadership of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network since the bombing raids began more than 12 days ago.
Meanwhile, U.S. news agencies say a limited number of U.S. special forces are now on the ground in southern Afghanistan, the first signs the operation might be moving towards a ground campaign.
Residents of the Afghan capital Kabul and the southern stronghold of Kandahar say bombs hit residential areas overnight, leaving more than a dozen people dead. The reports could not be independently confirmed.
In neighboring Pakistan, religious parties opposed to the military campaign are calling for protests in several cities across the country Friday.
Protests here have been sporadic, though tensions have been rising as Taleban officials cite a rising toll of civilian casualties.
U.S. officials say they are going to great pains to avoid civilian deaths, and have continuously disputed the Taleban claims, saying they are purposely inflating the death toll.
The United States is demanding Afghanistan's ruling Taleban hand over Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network, which is blamed for the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.