ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Anti-communist Islamic guerrillas killed 16 Soviet soldiers and destroyed five tanks in a surprise attack on one of two presidential palaces in the Afghan capital of Kabul, guerrillas said Friday.
It was not known whether President Babrak Karmal, installed by the Soviet Union three years ago and supported by 105,000 Soviet troops, was in the Chilsitoon palace at the time of the reported Dec. 24 raid.
The attack was reported by guerrilla sources in Peshawar, the Pakistani town 30 miles east of the Afghan border where the rebels have their headquarters. The report could not be independently confirmed.
The sources said guerrillas armed with rocket launchers and machine guns began the assault at 10 p.m. by targeting five tanks guarding the palace.
The Soviet tanks scurried into the palace courtyard, from where they shelled the attackers in a bid to push them back, the sources said.
Fighting continued sporadically until the morning, when heavy Soviet reinforcements arrived, the sources said.
Before pulling back, the attackers destroyed the security post at the main gate of the palace, situated in the southern outskirts Kabul, the sources said.
They said at least 16 Soviet soldiers were killed. No figures on guerrilla casualties were disclosed.
Chilsitoon -- which means 40 pillars -- was built between 1880 and 1901 in the style of ancient Greece. During the reign of King Zahir, who was deposed in 1973, it accommodated a number of famous guests, including Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev and the Shah of Iran.
The other palace in the capital -- the Arg -- is situated downtown Kabul.
Anti-communist guerrillas also said Friday they destroyed a power plant near Kabul Monday, causing extensive blackouts in the city. Western diplomatic sources in Islamabad confirmed that Kabul has suffered power outages since Monday.
Guerrilla sources said rebels used mortars to knock out the plant at Sarobi, 25 miles east of Kabul, and then cut down transmission lines between Sarobi and the capital.
The sources said the attack plunged Kabul into darkness on Monday, the third anniversary of the Soviet-organized coup that put Karmal in power.
Large sections of Kabul are still without electricity, the guerrilla sources said.
Diplomatic sources in Islamabad said Western embassies in Kabul have been asked by Afghan authorities to use their own generators.