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Afghanistan: Red Cross Warehouse Hit In U.S. Strikes

Islamabad, 16 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says one of its warehouses was hit by a bomb today when U.S. air forces attacked Kabul. Robert Monin said the building was "clearly marked" with the organization's Red Cross emblem. Monin is the head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. He was speaking from Pakistan, where he has been evacuated.

He said an official complaint had been lodged with the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and through the ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported that fire erupted in an ICRC food depot in Kabul and that a major portion of the building was destroyed. There was no word on casualties.

Meanwhile, India has disagreed with comments today by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that the dispute over Kashmir is "central to the relationship" between India and Pakistan.

Ministry of External Affairs spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told journalists that what she called "terrorism" sponsored by Pakistan in Kashmir -- and not Kashmir itself -- is the problem.

India has long accused Pakistan of fomenting unrest in the Indian-held part of Kashmir, the territory which has been the cause of two wars between them since 1947.

Rao's comments came just before Powell arrived in India from Pakistan, where he met with Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. Powell said the United States and Pakistan are at the start of a new and stronger relationship. He expressed a willingness to help Pakistan and India resolve their differences over Kashmir.

Powell's visit to the region comes amid fresh fighting across the disputed border in Kashmir. In New Delhi, Powell will also seek to shore up support for the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

Also, U.S. forces today continued a series of intensive raids against the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

For the first time, U.S. forces used an AC-130 gunship, a low-flying, propeller-driven plane described as one of the deadliest weapons in the U.S. air arsenal.

U.S. aircraft also dropped bombs on Kabul, striking a fuel dump near the airport.

The opposition Northern Alliance today said its forces had made advances on Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan which is controlled by the Taliban.

Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said opposition commanders plan to coordinate closely with the United States future attacks against Taliban targets.

In Islamabad, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf told visiting U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell that Pakistan's support for the U.S. military action in Afghanistan will continue as long as the operation lasts. But Musharraf said Pakistan believed the campaign should be "short" and "targeted".

"The military campaign in Afghanistan should be short and targeted and it should be followed immediately by application of viable political and economic strategies."

Powell said the Taliban were under "enormous pressure" but did not say when he expected the Islamic militia to collapse.