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Rocket Barrage Hits Airport Near Kabul Diplomats Attempt To End Fighting In Afghanistan

Rockets slammed into the airport northeast of Kabul on Monday, as diplomats criss-crossed the troubled nation trying to keep its warring factions from launching a full-scale battle for Kabul.

The rocket barrage came from an area where ousted government soldiers are fiercely battling with their Taliban rivals, who captured Kabul three weeks ago. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Taliban forces retaliated with several bombing raids on Jebul Siraj, the headquarters of deposed military chief Ahmed Shah Massood, 60 miles north of Kabul.

Panicked residents scrambled for cover Monday as the jets screamed in low over Jebul Siraj, witnesses said, adding that several people were killed and wounded.

Taliban religious fighters overran Kabul on Sept. 27, toppling the government, and now control about two-thirds of the country in their bid to impose a strict Islamic regime.

The front line is barely 12 miles from Kabul. So far, Massood has said he won’t attack the capital.

Pakistani Interior Minister Nasrullah Babaar shuttled Monday between Taliban headquarters in southern Kandahar and the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the northern stronghold of warlord Rashid Dostum, as he tried to negotiate a peace pact.

Dostum’s troops are the second-largest army in the country after the Taliban forces. Dostum and Massood are old rivals, but they formed an alliance last week against the Taliban.

U.N. envoy Norbert Holl was in Kabul, also trying to get a cease-fire.

“A cease-fire is the highest priority among all parties, but they will have to get to it step by step,” Holl said.

Taliban officials denied reports that a cease-fire had been reached, saying they want guarantees from both Dostum and Massood that they will pull back their forces.

“There is no cease-fire. First there should be an exchange of prisoners and then we will talk about a ceasefire,” said Mullah Haqqani, a Taliban spokesman in Kandahar.

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