Victims recall horrific aftermath of Taliban car-bomb attack on Zabul hospital
QALAT -- Survivors of a Taliban car-bomb attack that hit the Sultan Malakhi Tokhi civilian hospital in Qalat City, Zabul Province, on September 19 say the blast has left them with horrific physical and mental wounds.
The explosion took place at 5.50am, killing 39 people and wounding 184 others.
Hours after the attack, the Taliban claimed responsibility, falsely saying the bomber had targeted the Zabul National Directorate of Security (NDS) compound and not the hospital.
Karima, 43, who asked not to give her last name, lost her son and a nephew in the attack.
"I brought my son and a nephew to the hospital on [September 18] because both of them were sick and I stayed with them," Karima said two days after the attack. "On [September 19], after I did morning prayer, I went to the women's ward to have breakfast and it was when the car-bomb attack hit."
"The hospital was demolished, there was screaming and the place where our children were hospitalised was completely destroyed by the explosion."
"I tried to get to my children but when I arrived at the children's section, nothing was there -- neither the room nor my children," Karima said.
That was when she fainted, she said.
"This was a horrific scene that I observed. May God not let others ever see such a sight," Karima added.
"Civilians and children of poor people were hospitalised in this hospital," she said. "I don't know where they are now, dead or alive."
"For God's sake, do not kill your people for the purpose of pleasing foreigners," Karima said, addressing the Taliban. "All those martyred and wounded in your suicide attack were civilians. Fear God and be sympathetic with the people. May God destroy your houses as you destroyed ours."
Seddiqullah Seddiq, a resident of Shah Joy District, suffered a broken arm and leg in the blast.
"On [September 17], I came from Shah Joy to Qalat, and when I completed my medical checkup, doctors told me that I should be hospitalised because they said I am suffering from malaria and diabetes," he said.
"My son was sitting with me and we had breakfast," he said, recalling the day of the attack. "It was around 5:50am when a very bad explosion took place. The fire's flame even came into the room. Some parts of the room were destroyed. My son asked me 'dad, are you hurt?"'
"Some parts of the ceiling had fallen on me and I slowly replied to my son 'I am ok, I am ok,"' he said.
Seddiq thanked the police for their rapid response to the blast.
"If the national police had not quickly reached the victims, more of our people could have been martyred. Praise to the police and the government who helped us in such a difficult situation," he said.
'Enemies of the Afghan nation'
Dr. Samiul Haq Rahmati, who was on duty that day in the general surgery department, said he and his team continued to help others after being injured in the attack.
"We observed morning prayer. My duty begins after 4.00am following the prayer and we had a patient who needed surgery and we needed to prepare for it," he said.
"The surgery team and I were busy preparing and then I came to my room to put on my surgery uniform. As I returned to the surgery department, the explosion suddenly occurred. My colleagues and I didn't realise for some time what had happened," Rahmati said.
"I received two injuries on my arm and leg. I could not feel the pain of my injuries, and we tried to treat others and provide them with assistance," Rahmati said.
"There were no military men in the hospital, there were only civilians," he added.
"By launching the latest attack, the Taliban showed that they are enemies of the Afghan nation and supporters of foreign interests," Zabul Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal said in at press conference in Qalat City September 22. "The nation has to stand up against the violence and crimes of the Taliban. The Taliban have never showed sympathy for the Afghan nation, they have always bothered the Afghan nation."
"The Taliban are lying that they attacked the National Directorate of Security. The Taliban launched the attack on the provincial hospital and all of the victims of the event were civilians," he said.