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U.N. says hospital hit in Herat

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A hospital inside a military compound in the Afghan city of Herat was destroyed in a bombing raid, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

In Washington, the Pentagon acknowledged a bomb missed its target and hit near a senior citizen's home in Herat on Sunday, but said it had no estimates of casualties from that attack.

In the Pakistani capital Islamabad, U.N. spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said officials had talked with local U.N. staff in Herat by radio. The Afghan staff said the hospital was "totally destroyed" but had no information about casualties, Bunker said.

The U.N. staff in Herat also said it was not uncommon for military hospitals to take in civilian patients. They could not say whether the hospital was marked with a red crescent.

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Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said an F/A-18 Hornet from a U.S. carrier dropped a 1,000-pound (455-kilogram) guided bomb Sunday morning in Herat. The bomb was meant for a vehicle storage facility at a military barracks, but it landed in an open area near a home for the elderly.

"Although the details are still being investigated, preliminary indications are that the weapons guidance system malfunctioned," Clarke said. "As we always say, we regret any loss of civilian life ... We take great care in our targeting process to avoid civilian casualties."

Clarke said it was possible that the building U.N. workers described as a hospital is the same building, but "it's been described to us as senior citizen center." She said she had no information on any casualties inflicted as a result.

A Pentagon official told CNN earlier Tuesday that a claim by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban that 100 people died in the attack was exaggerated.

Bunker noted that the Herat staffers spoke in local languages with Pakistan counterparts via radio in the presence of Taliban officials. U.N. staff in Islamabad pointed out that communication from Afghanistan is poor, making it difficult to get information.

The U.N. staff in Herat described the situation there as "more chaotic" with people being displaced and moving around as a result of the air attacks.

In addition, Afghan nationals working for the United Nations in Kabul said that two residential neighborhoods in the capital have been hit in recent airstrikes. Taliban troops have been moving into residential areas, they said, but could not provide more information.

Clarke acknowledged that two 500-pound bombs missed their targets Saturday and struck residential areas northwest of Kabul.


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