Attack Spotlight

KABUL, Afghanistan?Anti aircraft fire crackled in the sky over Kabul Monday, signaling the start of a second night of attacks by the U.S. and British coalition. As the new wave of strikes began, the Taliban insisted previous strikes had missed their mark.

At least three bombs fell in the Kabul area Monday?one each in the eastern, western and northern sections of the city. The targets were unclear. However, the western section includes a television transmission tower and the airport is in the north. The abandoned Balahisar Fort is in the eastern district.

Taliban gunners responded with heavy bursts of anti aircraft fire. One high-flying plane could be seen dropping flares before the detonations.

Power was cut in the capital soon after the barrage began, and Taliban radio ordered people to close their blinds, shut off the lights and stay indoors.

Other strikes were under way at the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, a Taliban official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Taliban positions around the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif were also under attack Monday by aircraft and missiles, a spokesman for the opposition northern alliance, Ashraf Nadim, said by telephone.

Nadim was speaking from Samangan province, about 30 miles from Mazar-e-Sharif. He said opposition leaders were tipped off by the United States a half-hour before Monday?s attack.

In Washington, meanwhile, President Bush vowed to be ?relentless? in fighting terrorism ?on all fronts.?

In an indication the United States might want to someday expand the military operation, a senior administration official said formal notification had been sent to the U.N. Security Council that counterterrorism attacks may be extended beyond Afghanistan.

The military campaign is aimed at punishing the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, the man accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington that killed more than 5,000.

In addition to Kabul and Kandahar, the first night of strikes Sunday targeted Jalalabad, along the Pakistani border, and Mazar-e-Sharif. The compound of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in Kandahar, as well as training bases of bin Laden?s al Qaeda network were also hit in the first night?s assault.

Taliban radio on Monday derided the previous night?s strikes as a failure. ?The American bombardment and rocket attacks didn’t hit their targets,? it said.

Shortly before Monday’s attacks began, the Taliban released a British journalist and handed her over to Pakistani authorities, border officials said. Yvonne Ridley, a reporter for a London tabloid, had been arrested in Afghanistan 10 days earlier, after all foreigners were ordered out of the country.

Washington called the airstrikes that began Sunday night a success, saying military installations and terrorist training camps were prime targets. Britain, which took part in the raids, said some of the camps were apparently empty, but that hitting them deprived al Qaeda of some of its bases.

Most of neighboring Pakistan was calm before Monday?s new assault, but fierce protests broke out in a pair of border cities where pro-Taliban sentiment runs high. One person was reported killed and more than two dozen hurt in unrest in the southwest Pakistani city of Quetta.

Mobs stoned the Quetta office of the U.N. refugee agency and torched the U.N. children?s agency office in the same compound, but no staffers were hurt. Pakistan?s government, which supports the mission against the Taliban, expressed regret over the destruction and said security around U.N. installations would be tightened.