New Delhi — Soviet Afghan troops mount big spring drive
The Soviet Union has launched a major spring offensive in Afghanistan, massing thousands of troops backed by tanks and heavy bombers in its seventh bid to seize the strategic Panjshir Valley from Afghan rebels, Western diplomats said here Tuesday.
(Afghanistan claimed Tuesday that its forces had captured the valley, overrunning the ''last remnants'' of rebel forces there.)
In Washington, State Department spokesman Alan Romberg said that the Soviet Union launched high-altitude saturation bombing in the valley Friday and Saturday.
It was reportedly the first time the Soviets used heavy bombers in their nearly 41/2-year war to crush Afghan guerrillas fighting Soviet occupation and the communist government in Kabul.
In what appeared to be a coordinated preemptive strike against the Soviet buildup, Afghan guerrillas have blown up at least four bridges near the Panjshir Valley along the main highway between Kabul and the Soviet Union, Afghan exiles and Western diplomats said Tuesday in Islamabad, Pakistan.