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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Strikes Hit Hospital, Kabul

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- U.S. jets struck before dawn Wednesday near the southern city of Kandahar and badly damaged a hospital, witnesses said. Air attacks also pounded Taliban positions north of Kabul and near the strategic northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

North of Kabul, jets attacked a Taliban field headquarters in some of the heaviest bombing of the front line yet. At least 11 bombs struck Wednesday morning.

"They [U.S. planes] can target very precisely. We hope they can target [the Taliban] as well," said Mohammed Rashid, an opposition fighter, as he watched the dust clouds move across the Shomali Plain about 50 kilometers north of Kabul.

In Kandahar, a doctor said 15 people were killed and 25 others severely injured in the attack on the hospital, located about two kilometers northeast of the city center.

Western and other foreign journalists were taken by the Taliban to the hospital, operated by the Afghan Red Crescent. They saw some of the injured but no bodies.

Two ambulances and two pickup trucks were destroyed in the attack, and damage to the building was extensive. The doctor, Obeidallah Hadid, suffered a slight head injury.

In Islamabad, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, claimed a total of 1,500 people had been killed so far in the assault on Afghanistan, now in its fourth week. The Pentagon has accused the Taliban of inflating civilian casualties.

The official Bakhtar news agency also reported heavy air attacks around Mazar-i-Sharif, which the opposition has been trying to regain since it was driven out by the Taliban in 1998.

Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance is preparing for a march on Kabul and has deployed hundreds of troops near Taliban front lines north of the city. Taliban positions in those areas were hit by U.S. bombs Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Tuesday that the United States had a "very modest" number of uniformed military personnel in Afghanistan, coordinating air strikes with the opposition.

Rumsfeld said the U.S. soldiers aren't telling the rebels what to do, adding, "These people have been fighting in that country for ages."

"There is coordination in all aspects," said Abdullah, the foreign minister of the Afghan opposition's government-in-exile, who uses one name. He added: "There will be much better coordination in the coming days."

Saeed Hussain Anwari, chief of a Shiite Muslim faction in the Northern Alliance, said that a few days ago, seven or eight U.S. soldiers in civilian dress were in Kapisa and Parwan provinces, north of Kabul, for meetings with opposition commanders. Anwari described them as "special forces" with "special experience."

Amir Khan Muttaqi, spokesman for the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, said he was unconcerned about the presence of U.S. soldiers with the opposition Northern Alliance.

"This is not new," he said. "They have been there before since this began. It won't make any difference. I can say proudly Afghans will never be ruled by anyone who is brought in by force."

In related developments:

After the FBI's warning about possible new terrorist attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily banned private planes from flying near nuclear power plants. Commercial airplanes, which fly at higher altitudes, will not be affected.

U.S. President George W. Bush urged U.S. lawmakers to support his version of an aviation security bill that would give the government control of airport screening without hiring thousands of new federal workers. The House votes Thursday.

The American Red Cross said it has raised enough money to help victims of the terrorist attacks and will stop asking for donations. The Liberty Fund held $547 million in pledges as of Monday.

The chairman of CNN has ordered his staff to balance images of civilian devastation in Afghan cities with reminders that the Taliban harbors murderous terrorists, saying it "seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan,'' the Washington Post reported.