Shah Wali Kot Wedding Bombing
Reports started to come in earlier today of a bombing of a wedding party in Kandahar province’s north-western district of Shah Wali Kot. I visited the hospital just now to visit and interview survivors.
Abdul Zahir, 24, is the bride’s brother. He was in Shah Wali Kot yesterday for the wedding when the bombing started. The celebrations for village weddings start early in the day, and it was around 4pm when the guests heard shots fired from a nearby mountain. There was fighting between the Taliban and Canadians near the crossroads in town earlier in the day, but roughly half an hour after that finished, witnesses said, bombing started. Abdul Zahir was not injured.
The bombing, they said, lasted from 4-9pm. Noor Ahmad, Hazrat Sadiq and Mohammad Rafiq all lay on beds in the hospital next to Abdul Zahir. Between 3 and 5 years old, they are the cousins of Abdul Zahir and were injured in the bombing. Of Abdul Zahir’s relatives, 8 people, he said, were killed and 14 injured. The dead in his family included 1 cousin, 2 brothers (called Qahir and Twahir), his grandmother and his uncle’s mother.
The bombing, witnesses said, wasn’t the end of their ordeal. At approximately 10pm, ‘the Americans’ came to their village and bound all their hands with plastic restraints and held them there for questioning. ‘Panjshiri’ interpreters working with the Americans kicked them, they said, and translated what the Americans were saying.
“If you fire one bullet from your village,” they said, “we will destroy your village.” Now I don’t necessarily believe this. In these kinds of events it’s an unfortunate fact that the reality starts to get shaped and distorted almost as soon as they happen.
Rahmatullah, another man present in Wech Baghtu (the village that was bombed), claimed that the translators had robbed them after tying them up.
“They took 200 Afghani [about $4] and my mobile phone and all the papers from my pockets,” he said. Rahmatullah’s son Hekmatullah died in the bombing, he said, and his wife was injured.
Due to the sensitive nature of interactions with women in Kandahar, I was unable to visit any of the female victims of the attack.
It is especially frustrating in the case of this bombing, since all witnesses said that 95% of the victims were women. Weddings are segregated in the villages in Kandahar, with women in one area, and men in another. It seems that the bombs struck the women’s section of the wedding.
Two villages seem to have been affected by the bombing – Wech Baghtu and Tor Gharak. ‘Americans’ came to take pictures after the bombing apparently, said one witness.
I glimpsed the bride through a crack in the door of a room. She, her brother told us, was also seriously injured.
Hospital intake statistics showed that 16 males had been admitted to the hospital with injuries from the bombing. I’m not sure how many females, because I didn’t make it to that part of the hospital.
As to how many people died, who was at fault, and all this other speculation, it’s too early to know, and in any case I don’t think we’ll ever find out how many people died.
Some of the dead will be buried early tomorrow morning, and the details of the story will be hard to prove.
At any rate, the governor is holding a press conference tomorrow, and I’ll be going back to the hospital. More wounded will arrive overnight I think.