Kabul Residents Had a Sleepless Night

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Terrified Kabul residents emerged hollow-eyed and blinking Monday after a night spent cowering from an unseen enemy.

Already inured to conflict following over two decades of war, Sunday night was one of the most horrifying of their lives.

"We were listening to the radio when we heard the roar of the plane and then a massive explosion," said a man whose mud-brick house was destroyed. "The room where we live was full of smoke and we went outdoors. The smoke and dust from the bomb went on for more than an hour and a half."

While his children were unable to sleep the rest of the night, he lost only two sheep slashed apart by shrapnel.

"We don't want this. Death to America and Bush. You are killers," said a neighbor who was helping to clear the rubble of the house. A large crater lay outside.

Because of a strict curfew enforced by the country's Taliban rulers, helpless residents had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide as the United States and Britain launched waves of attacks.

Although expected, the first raid came without warning.

U.S. warplanes -- some having flown nonstop from the continental United States itself -- roared across the city shortly after the nightly curfew was imposed at 9 p.m.

Taliban fighters armed with Soviet-era anti-aircraft batteries put up a feeble resistance.

"We don't want a continuation of this condition anymore. Please tell the Americans to stop it," said a shell-shocked shopkeeper.

"We were utterly frightened. My kids could not sleep. It was a shocking night," said another man. "Only God knows what has happened. I am leaving. I will sleep under the sky rather than stay in the city another night."

At several mosques, calls were made for staging a jihad, or holy war, against America.

"The time has come for jihad and we have to sacrifice ourselves for our country and Islam," was the sermon at one city mosque.

For some, one more night of terror was too much to endure.

Children, toddlers, elderly men and women huddled in buses and trucks as they tried to leave Kabul for the safety of neighboring Pakistan or for rural parts of the rugged country that do not present prime targets to U.S. bombs and missiles.

Some carried meager household items and most looked around them in fear. Many blamed Washington for forcing them into barren lands outside the city as winter nears.

"We are leaving because it is no longer safe here, thanks to America," an elderly disabled man said at a bus station just after dawn.

"Look at this small kid. Can she endure hearing the bangs of the gifts of the American government?" he asked, referring to the overnight bombardment of missiles and bombs.

"We just want to leave this city since no one slept last night," said another man, sighing as his children shivered in the cold early-morning breeze.

"Tell the Americans that we have faced enough suffering, destruction and casualties because of the past wars and they should spare us," he said.

However, many others began the day as normal, opening up their shops and driving to work.

"We don't feel safe, but we can't go anywhere," said one man on his way to work.