Rocket fire from Taliban brings death to market

Two civilians killed, at least 15 injured in attack on bazaar

War On Terrorism

The World

October 24, 2001|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

CHARIKAR, Afghanistan - The morning was warm, and shoppers crowded the main street and alleys of Charikar's bazaar. Then rockets fired by Taliban forces whistled across the sky.

The first fell some distance away, but the second struck a tree branch and sprayed shrapnel through the crowd, killing two merchants and injuring at least 15 other civilians. It was the first attack against Charikar in several weeks and was followed yesterday afternoon by the third American bombing assault on Taliban front-line positions in as many days.

The victims here included a tea merchant named Agha Shiram, a widower who had lost both legs to a land mine.

A merchant named Rismullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said he was talking with Shiram when the second rocket arrived. Shrapnel tore into Shiram's stomach, killing him. Rismullah suffered a puncture wound in his left leg, and there was a small tear in his gray vest.

Shekh Rasoul, a vegetable merchant, was killed when shrapnel from the same rocket wounded him in the neck, witnesses said. Remnants of the weapon landed in a gutter a few feet from the Shamast Khalandar Mosque, where both of the slain men prayed.

Both rockets were fired from Dare Kalon Mountain, a line of jagged-edge peaks held by the Taliban about a mile and a half to the west and in plain sight of the bazaar.

Physicians at Charikar Hospital said the wounded included four children, ages 4, 10, 12 and 14. They were taken to an Italian-sponsored emergency hospital for war victims, 1 1/2 hours away by car.

In the afternoon, two swept-wing aircraft flying in formation appeared high in the clouds above the bazaar. They headed south, toward the Taliban front line.

The crowd fell silent.

Everyone looked up to watch the planes disappear into a cloud. Murmurs of appreciation ran through the bazaar. A loud boom then echoed through the northern Shomali Plain. And a large column of smoke drifted skyward.

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