KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S. jets blasted a Taliban military compound in the Afghan capital and appeared to strike an ammunition depot on the city's edge, sending fireballs of flame leaping into the sky. To the north, U.S. warplanes roared in over front lines Saturday to pound Taliban positions.
In northern Afghanistan, Taliban forces claimed Saturday to have hanged five opposition commanders captured after a repelled attack on the Taliban-held town of Mazar-e-Sharif -- a demoralizing blow to opposition forces already reeling from the loss of a key leader executed by the Taliban.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, acknowledged a U.S. bomb had struck International Red Cross warehouses in Kabul earlier in the week. It tentatively blamed "human error" for what was the second mistaken bombing of a Red Cross center this month.
The mistaken strike on the Red Cross, the setback near Mazar-e-Sharif and the execution of Abdul Haq all pointed to difficulties in the American campaign in Afghanistan and the resilience of the Taliban resistance. Nearly three weeks of daily air attacks have failed to break the militia's hold on this country or enable the opposition northern alliance to make significant advances.
Overnight raids at Kabul claimed at least two civilian lives, said Dr. Mohammed Ullah, a physician at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
Bomb shrapnel killed one man, Ullah said. A stray bullet struck the other victim on his rooftop as he watched the fiery sky.
Roving Taliban artillery guns, mounted on pickup trucks for quick getaways, answered U.S. blasts with bright bursts of anti-aircraft fire.
U.S. bombs honed in on the Taliban's sprawling military compound in Kabul, just across from the long-abandoned U.S. Embassy, with a giant American eagle still spread across its black steel gates.
Other bombs appeared to hit an ammunition depot on the city's eastern edge overnight, sparking off bright-red explosions.
U.S. jets returned at sunrise Saturday, hammering near northern hills on the city's edge, toward Kabul's airport -- a repeated target of attacks.
They also struck areas around Nishrab and Tagab, about 30 miles northeast of Kabul. The Taliban's Bakhtar News Agency said six people were killed, 12 injured and 15 houses destroyed.
"Fortunately, they were empty," it added. Bombs also struck near Jalalabad in eastern Nangarhar province, Bakhtar said. The report could not be confirmed.
Capital residents who ventured out after dawn to inspect the damage could hear artillery rumbling in the distance. U.S. jets were resuming attacks on Taliban positions north of the city, witnesses and opposition figures told an Associated Press reporter at the front.
Loud blasts could be heard along the front line near the village of Jan Qadam, near the opposition-occupied Bagram air base. As warplanes flew overhead, the Taliban fired rockets and mortars at front-line opposition troops.
Overnight, jets pounded northern Afghanistan's Dar-e-Suf district of Samangan province where Taliban troops face off against the northern alliance, Bakhtar said, but added that "there was no change in the front line and we don't know about casualties."
Saturday, the Taliban claimed to have beaten back a new opposition push at Samangan province at the Mazar-e-Sharif front. Taliban forces captured five opposition commanders in Friday's battle, and immediately hanged them publicly, Taliban officials told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.
In other attacks-related developments:
-- In Pakistan, authorities headed north Saturday to reclaim portions of the fabled Silk Route after pro-Taliban militants blocked it with boulders and planted land mines along its shoulders. Traffic along the 750-mile Karakoram Highway, a major trade link between Pakistan and China, has all but stopped since the Sept. 11 attacks.
-- U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees began a three-day visit to refugee camps near the Pakistan border on Saturday. Ruud Lubbers went first to Quetta near the Chaman border crossing, where thousands of fleeing Afghans have tried to enter Pakistan.
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