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British sources: Red Cross compound had Taliban guards, equipment

Smoke rises from a Red Cross compound near Kabul that was hit by U.S. bombing Tuesday.
Smoke rises from a Red Cross compound near Kabul that was hit by U.S. bombing Tuesday.  

LONDON (CNN) -- British Defense Ministry sources said Wednesday that while the strike of a Red Cross warehouse in the Afghan capital, Kabul, was "regrettable," the compound that was hit housed Taliban guards and military equipment.

And, the ministry sources questioned reports that there were symbols on top of the building that identified it as a Red Cross facility.

An International Committee of the Red Cross statement said the compound was 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Kabul airport and "clearly distinguishable from the air" because its roof was painted with a large red cross on a white background.

Tuesday, a Pentagon statement said 1,000-pound precision-guided bombs "inadvertently struck one or more warehouses used by the International Committee of the Red Cross." The statement said the bombs came from a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet.

"Although details are still being investigated, the ICRC warehouses were among a series of warehouses targeted by U.S. forces because the Taliban used them for storage of military equipment. Military vehicles had been seen in the vicinity of these warehouses. U.S. forces did not know that ICRC was using one or more of the warehouses," the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said reports from the ICRC indicate that wheat and other humanitarian supplies stored in the warehouses were destroyed, and an Afghan security guard was wounded. He is hospitalized and is in stable condition with serious injuries, the ICRC said.

The ICRC in Islamabad said there was an explosion and the warehouse was destroyed.

The agency said the building, which contained blankets, tarpaulins, and plastic sheeting, was destroyed. A second building containing food supplies caught fire and was partially damaged.

As of September 16, Western relief workers evacuated the area, but local workers remained to staff the complex. In Geneva, ICRC spokesman Kim Gordon-Bates said Wednesday that "there was no indication there had been any change," referring to what was contained in the building.

Gordon-Bates said the agency "would have known" whether military assets had been moved to a warehouse in Kabul that had been struck by U.S. bombs.

The Pentagon statement said that U.S. forces "intentionally strike only military and terrorist targets, and regret any innocent casualties."

"The U.S. is the largest donor of food and other humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, and U.S. forces are aggressive supporters of the worldwide effort to help the Afghan people," the Pentagon statement concluded.

-- CNN Correspondents Jamie McIntyre and Frank Buckley and Journalist Mike Mount contributed to this report


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