Heavy damage reported in Kabul, Kandahar on 10th day of strikes
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Ten days of U.S.-led air raids have inflicted heavy damage on Afghanistan's major cities of Kabul and Kandahar, sources inside the embattled country told CNN on Tuesday, as round-the-clock bombings continued almost unabated.
CNN's sources said bombs could be seen falling around Kabul on Tuesday morning as jet fighters streaked across the sky.
The Pentagon said the level of bombing Tuesday was similar to Monday's attacks, which the Defense Department had described as the most intense since the beginning of airstrikes more than a week ago.
Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, said some 90 strike aircraft were launched from aircraft carriers through the day. That force was supplemented by "six to eight" ground-based heavy bombers, and two AC-130 gunships, which were used to pound troop positions on the ground.
"There were 12 target areas, including terrorist camps and training areas," Newbold said. "We struck airfields and aircraft, (anti-aircraft emplacements) and (surface-to-air missile) sites."
Also among Tuesday's targets, Newbold said, were "troop and vehicle staging areas, storage and maintenance sheds."
The Arabic-language TV network Al Jazeera reported that electricity and water had been knocked out in Kabul. The network also said the Taliban-controlled northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif was under attack by opposition Northern Alliance forces, and that five people died in overnight attacks in Kandahar when a clinic was hit in the city.
Those reports could not be immediately confirmed, though Newbold later said he was certain that Northern Alliance forces "were close" to the strategic Mazar-e-Sharif, and its fall could be provide a deep psychological blow to the Taliban.
Coalition strikes alone, he added, have "had a fairly dramatic effect on the Taliban," at a "net benefit to the Northern Alliance."
Newbold repeatedly deflected questions about direct U.S. help for the alliance, Afghanistan's most notable group opposing the Taliban. The Northern Alliance, he said, would have to make its own decisions about when it was going to move to take Mazar-e-Sharif.
Pentagon probing Red Cross report
The International Committee of the Red Cross told CNN on Tuesday that one of its warehouses was struck by a bomb Tuesday evening, wounding one person -- an assertion the Pentagon said it needed to confirm.
"There was an explosion, and the warehouse was completely destroyed," said Mario Musa, an ICRC spokesman in Islamabad, Pakistan.
One guard was injured in the explosion, which occurred during an air raid on Kabul, Musa said. The ICRC compound continues to operate using a staff of Afghan nationals, he said.
"We've heard the reports and are looking into it. As we get more information, we'll let you know," said Defense Department spokeswoman Torie Clark.
Newbold, too, said he had no confirmation of the report but stated that U.S. strikes are meticulously planned to avoid such unwanted occurrences.
"No armed force … puts so much planning into the selection of tactics, techniques and weapons … so unintended casualties are kept to a minimum," he said.
The compound is 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from the Kabul airport and is "clearly distinguishable from the air" because its roof is painted with a large red cross on a white background, according to an ICRC statement.
The building contained blankets, tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, according to the statement. A second building containing food supplies caught fire and was partially damaged, the statement added.
"The ICRC strongly regrets this incident, especially as one of its staff was wounded," the statement said, adding the agency has approached the United States for information about the circumstances of the attack.
In Kandahar, CNN sources said the airstrikes appeared to be taking a considerable toll on the city. Targets included a military command center for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and a Taliban commando base, sources said.
And for the second day in a row, U.S. Special Operations AC-130 gunships were part of the strikes, using their powerful cannon to pound troop concentrations on the ground.
The specially modified C-130 airplanes used in the latest assault on Kandahar are based at the Air Force Special Operations base at Hurlburt Field, Florida, according to Pentagon sources. The planes have a side-firing cannon that can be devastating against ground targets, including troop concentrations. Depending on the model, the AC-130 has either a 40 mm cannon and 105 mm cannon, or a 25 mm gun.
Lt. Gen. Newbold sang the craft's praises Tuesday.
"The AC-130 gunship is an excellent platform to use in this environment," he said. "It has precision weapons platforms which allow us to reduce collateral damage at the impact point. It has the ability to station itself over a target area for a long period of time. It also has a large crew of specialists able to acquire targets to a degree that a fighter aircraft cannot."
AC-130s were first used in Vietnam for close-air support. The last time the United States employed the craft was on a manhunt in 1993, when an AC-130 leveled the house of Somali faction leader Mohammed Farah Aidid.
Other American warplanes involved in the 10th straight day of attacks included a small number of Air Force B-1 and B-52 long-range bombers, as well as dozens of carrier-based F-18s and F-14s.
Pentagon sources also said the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Enterprise will soon be relieved in the Arabian Sea by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which will be on station within a day, U.S. Navy sources said.
The Roosevelt and its escorts, which had been in the Mediterranean Sea, moved through the Suez Canal on Saturday.
Pentagon sources also said that during Monday's strikes a U.S. Navy F-18 was unable to refuel in the air because of a malfunctioning nozzle. Instead, the plane landed at a Pakistani base at Jacobabad, where it was refueled. It returned to its carrier base without incident.
Newbold said some 70,000 humanitarian aid packets were dropped overnight, bringing the number dropped so far to some 300,000 self-contained meals.
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