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Heavy bombing reported in Kandahar; CNN office hit

In this image taken from Al-Jazeera video, an Afghan covers his face as he stands at the scene of a damaged building in Kabul on Thursday.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Heavy bombing was reported Thursday night in Kandahar, and the CNN workplace was among the locations damaged during U.S. attacks in Afghanistan.

The people in the workplace -- including employees of CNN and the Arabic-language TV network Al Jazeera -- had taken cover outside because of the heavy bombing and were not injured, but the building sustained major damage.

CNN employees said a large explosion on a nearby road knocked down a wall and blew out windows in the building. They said they believe a vehicle traveling on the road was targeted, possibly by a U.S. gunship.

Bombing was also reported Thursday night in the eastern city of Jalalabad, where a TV station and terrorist training camps were believed to be among the targets.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports of numerous defections from the Taliban army coming to the side of the Northern Alliance (October 18)

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Taliban sources claim U.S. bombs hit an apartment building, while Pakistanis protest Western military action. CNN's Nic Robertson reports (October 18)

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Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil told CNN that world aid agencies are in danger if they are allowed back into Afghanistan (October 18)

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Earlier in the day, Taliban and al Qaeda military targets in and near the capital city of Kabul came under intense attack on the 12th day of airstrikes, sources told CNN. At least seven people were reported killed in the attack.

There were no details on the deaths in Kabul, but Al Jazeera reported that a dwelling had been hit and that bodies were seen being removed from the rubble. The media outlet said it was unclear whether the dead were civilians or military personnel.

Other civilian damage was reported when a bomb hit a boys' school but didn't explode, according to international journalists.

In Kandahar, one of the Taliban's elite commando units may have been hit, sources told CNN.

The ruling Taliban claimed 20 people were killed in the Kandahar attack. A report from Al Jazeera showed men digging furiously through the rubble of a bombed-out building, and body parts were visible. The number of deaths could not be independently confirmed.

More than a dozen targets were hit Wednesday, including al Qaeda terrorist camps and military facilities of the Taliban regime, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference Thursday.

Among the strike areas were missile sites, and installations used for vehicle and armor maintenance and storage, Myers said.

Myers said the attacks were carried out by tactical aircraft, primarily carrier-based, and some F-15Es and long-range bombers. Some of the aircraft came from the carrier USS Roosevelt.

Sources told CNN at least seven people were reported killed Thursday in Kabul.  

Several video clips were shown to reporters of some of the damage.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would neither confirm nor deny that the Pentagon is using armed, but unmanned, drones known as the RQ-1A Predator, for the first time in the air campaign. There have been reports that the medium-altitude aircraft has joined the airstrikes.

Myers said four humanitarian air drops Wednesday delivered about 53,000 rations, bringing the total dropped during the campaign to more than 450,000. The United States also is continuing to drop leaflets and do broadcasts, urging Taliban and al Qaeda surrenders.

The humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders said it is pulling out of two Afghan cities after warehouses containing food and medical supplies were plundered.

A seesaw battle raged for the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces. If the opposition Northern Alliance gains control of Mazar-e Sharif, it would have a key supply route from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and a possible base for any U.S.-led ground forces in Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance fighters reported stiff resistance from Taliban troops, many of whom had been rushed to the front lines.

At a briefing in Washington on Thursday, Rumsfeld said the Pentagon has no hard information about civilian casualties and disputed any information from the Taliban.

"The numbers that [the] Taliban has been floating out in the media are false, we are certain about that," he said.

Rumsfeld also said he could not confirm reports that a senior al Qaeda official was killed in the U.S. attacks.

"Well, is it accurate that a senior lieutenant of al Qaeda might have been killed? Yes, it might have happened," he said. "Do I know it of certain knowledge? No. I've not been on the ground. But it would be a good thing for the world."

In other developments, Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil explained why they don't want to let international aid workers back into Afghanistan at this time.

"Some of the international aid agencies have said they want to come back to Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan people are under wild and brutal bombardment ... and an imposed war on them," Muttawakil said in an exclusive interview with CNN.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan does not feel it is suitable to let the ex-patriots come back to Afghanistan for security reasons," Muttawakil said, suggesting the people of Afghanistan were so upset over the U.S. attacks that they would lash out at non-Afghans. "So we have asked them to operate through their local staff or through the appropriate government departments."


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