NEW DELHI, India -- Left-wing army and air force units bombed the Afghanistan capital of Kabul Thursday in an apparent Communist coup. The rebels seized the radio station and broadcast the "end of the rule" of President Mohammed Daoud.
Diplomats in New Delhi said reports from their embassies indicated the rebels had seized control of most of the capital. Fires burned out of control in parts of the city, and the streets were littered with bodies from the bombing raids by Soviet-built planes.
The U.S. Embassy said no one had been injured there. But the French Embassy said it had been damaged by tank fire and its consulate destroyed by fire.
If successful, the coup could install the first Communist regime on the Asian subcontinent. The Communist party is banned in Afghanistan, a Texas-sized nation located between Pakistan on the East and Iran on the West.
The radio announced a curfew in the capital and said anyone found on the streets after 8 p.m. would be shot to death on sight.
The diplomats said it was unclear whether resistance was continuing but gunfire could be heard in the capital.
Hours after the coup began, the rebels captured Radio Kabul and announced "the end of the rule of Mohammed Daoud and an end of the reign of the imperialists."
"All power has passed to the masses," the announcement concluded. The Persian word for masses, "khalq," used in the broadcasts, is the same as the name of Afghanistan's previously banned Communist party.
The radio announced the assumption of power by a military revolutionary council headed by Gen. Abdul Kader.
"The last remnants of the imperialist tyranny, despotism and power of the (Daoud) family have been put to an end," the broadcast said.
The broadcast, monitored in New Delhi, did not say what happened to the 71-year-old Dauod, who overthrew his own cousin in a palace coup in 1973 and abolished the monarchy in favor of a republic.
The diplomats' reports said the rebels appeared in control.
Diplomats said MiG-21 and SU:7 fighter planes roared over Kabul firing rockets at strategic downtown buildings and at least 50 ' tanks entered the fighting. Troops battled their way into the Interior Ministry headquarters and the Post and Telegraph Office, the center of Afghanistan's civilian communications.
Tank, artillery and automatic weapons fire poured into the palace compound and the Interior Ministry throughout the afternoon.
Heavy fighting also forced the closing of the airport. Afghanistan's borders with China, Iran, Pakistan and the Soviet Union were sealed.
Numerous bodies were scattered on the ground near the heaviest fighting, but State Department spokesmen in Washington said none of the 1,300 Americans in the Kabul area had been injured.
Former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had planned to visit Kabul Friday, but U.S. Embassy officials in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, said he canceled the trip. He was touring a Pakistani province near the Afghan border Thursday.
Daoud, a former army general and a former prime minister, took power in a 1973 coup against his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and established his own brand of authoritarian rule. He crushed a previous coup attempt in December, 1976.
Diplomatic reports reaching New Delhi Thursday said rebel air force units strafed the headquarters of the army's 8th Division and also attacked air force headquarters at Kabul airport.
The heaviest fighting took place in and around the presidential palace, the Interior Ministry and Pushtunistan Square, in the heart of downtown Kabul and the location of tourist hotels. Many buildings inside the presidential compound were reported on fire.
The coup came only hours after Kabul Radio reported the April 19 arrests of seven persons charged with shouting slogans against the constitution and acting in a manner "prejudicial to national security."
The charges stemmed from incidents at the funeral of a Communist leader, who was assassinated several days earlier. Several thousand mourners turned the funeral-into an anti-government demonstration.
Afghanistan, with an area of 260,000 square miles has a population estimated at 20 million and a per capita income of about $160 per year, making it one of the world's poorest countries.