NEW DELHI, India -- An Afghan official with close ties to President Najibullah charged Tuesday that Pakistani troops supported by tanks, rocket launchers and artillery led the attack that caused the fall of the strategic eastern city of Khost.
Ahmad Sarwar, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, charged at a news conference that Pakistani troops crossed the border into Afghanistan and led the Afghan Mujahideen rebels in attacking Khost, 100 miles southeast of the capital of Kabul.
'The Mujahideen never discuss their operations inside Afghanistan with us. No Pakistani troops took part in the Khost offensive and there was no Pakistani military adviser on the Khost front,' a Foreign Office spokesman in Islamabad said Monday.
Afghan President Najibullah announced on state-run Radio Kabul Monday night that all contact had been lost with Khost, which sits astride a highway from the border. He declared Tuesday a day of mourning for those killed in the battle.
The Mujahideen rebels claimed Sunday that they had captured Khost, which had a garrison of about 1,500 troops. The capture of the staunchly pro-communist town was of symbolic importance to the Muslim fundamentalist rebels.
The Afghan ambassador, who is married to the sister of Najibullah's wife, said Pakistani forces using tanks, artillery and rockets attacked Khost from four sides Sunday and the battle continued until Monday.
He said the attack on Khost caused a large number of civilian casualties among the city's 50,000 people and that the city was 'looted and robbed' by the Pakistani military.
'In the battle between the Pakistani army with the close collaboration of the Afghan mercenaries ... some soldiers and officers were martyred and hundreds of innocent people, including old women and children, were killed,' he said.
It was unclear how Sarwar obtained his information onthe situation in Khost if communications between the city and the capital have been severed. At times the ambassador appeared to suggest that Kabul was receiving unofficial reports from the town.
The Afghan ambassador said the United States, a key backer of the Mujahideen, had not disavowed support for the attack on Khost, but he appeared to back away from suggestions that U.S. officials had perhaps sanctioned Pakistani involvement in the assault.
'Recently we have seen some very flexible changes in the policy of the United States toward Afghanistan and for solving of the problem by political means,' Sarwar said. 'This is why it is very difficult for us to accept that the United States supports such an unhuman act.'
Khost, known as 'Little Moscow' for its staunch pro-communist tribesmen, has a symbolic importance for the Mujahideen. Its capture could again bring the rebel effort international media coverage and renewed aid and would enable the guerrillas' Pakistan-based provisional government into a major Afghan city.
The Mujihedeen, who have been fighting the Moscow-backed Kabul regime since 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, control a large part of rural Afghanistan but had not been able to capture a major city.