Mawlawi Ahmadullah, the Imam at 209 Shaheen Army Corps’ mosque, had a lucky escape on Friday as he had had guests at home on the day of the deadly attack and had been unable to lead prayers.
Ahmadullah, who has been the mosque’s Imam for ten years, told TOLOnews reporter Sharif Amiry that on the day he had not been able to get to the mosque on base but while on his way to another mosque, he heard gunfire.
“I requested someone else to lead the Friday prayers in my place after I received the guests. But I was on my way to another mosque for prayers when we heard the shooting. I received a call and I was told that a suicide attack had happened at the mosque,” he said.
Ahmadullah said luck had been on his side that day but sadly he lost one of his brother’s in the attack.
“I tried to call my brother and his colleagues, but their phones were off line at the time of the attack,” he said.
On Friday, at least 10 insurgents made their way on to the army base – of which three were suicide bombers. One suicide bomber reportedly detonated his explosives outside the mosque on the base, a second detonated his explosives in the mosque and a third at the canteen.
All ten were dressed in full army gear and are believed to have killed as many as 135 soldiers.
The insurgents managed to gain access on to the base in two army vehicles and were armed with rocket launchers, and PK’s and M249 machine guns, said Ahmadullah.
“They (attackers) were all in military uniform and armed with guns and came to the check points and showed identification that they belonged to the first regiment of the ANA. They had also rank (insignia) on their uniforms,” said Ahmadullah, quoting colleagues.
Ahmadullah said soldiers manning the base’s check points have said the insurgents had what appeared to be authentic ID cards and all details including their rank and blood group were in order. He said colleagues on the base told him that because of this, they were given access.
Ahmadullah said army personnel inside the camp told him the attackers managed to get through three check points but where stopped at the fourth check point where troops ordered them to hand in their weapons.
“One of the officers on duty asked the attackers where they wanted to go? The attackers replied that they belonged to the ANA’s first regiment and wanted to enter the base. The officer asked them to hand in their weapons, but the attackers refused to do so and they shot the soldier in the head,” added Ahmadullah.
“Following this shooting, there was panic and chaos; the attackers moved forward and threw hand grenades around the check point. Prayers (in the nearby mosque had started) five or ten minutes earlier but with the shooting, everyone was running and trying to hide inside the mosque compound and bathrooms; but the suicide attackers were coming close and then detonated their explosives around the mosque,” he said.
“Some clerics who were my close friends were also killed in the attack after the attackers threw grenades in the rooms where they were hiding; all rooms were burned; insurgents stormed the crowd of soldiers who were trying to escape through windows ” he said.
“My brother was also martyred in the yard of the mosque,” he said adding that his brother had been in the army for two years and had been a commander of an ANA unit.
“His commanders phoned him in the morning and asked him to be on duty that day. Then he (his brother) asked me to stay with the guests at home. He was married only four months ago and his wife is from Kunduz province,” he said.
He said that such attacks were completely in contradiction to the teachings of Islam.
“The Holy Quran does not tell anyone to kill people inside mosques or to carry out suicide attacks while people are praying. Islam strongly condemns the killing of people,” Ahmadullah said.
“Enemies once again demonstrated their barbaric action toward the people of Afghanistan; it shows that these people (insurgents) do not care about places of worship; they do not believe in religion and Islam.
“Even Jews do not do this. But insurgents commit crimes in the name of Islam and it is a horrific trend. Insurgents exploit Islam and Jihad; Islam does not allow the killing of worshipers, children and innocents,” he said.
“I have a message to the government … If they are fighting (against insurgents) they must fight them for real. Do not kill people every day. Every day people are in sorrow. What do the people have to do? They should not think about hunger or about sorrow. If you ask a mother she tells you how hard it is to raise a child. If government leaders were united, then we would not face such a situation,” added Ahmadullah.
“My message to the insurgents is that what you are doing is not in the name of Islam. Insurgents have been deceived. They must think about their futures and the people of Afghanistan. They must think about the interests of people, live in peace and avoid thinking about their own objectives,” he said.
However, early Sunday, a spokesman for the military corps, Abdul Qahar said that the “attack was planned outside the country” and added that “the bodies of the victims are being transferred to their families.”
He did not provide more details.
It’s believed however, that the death toll of the attack could rise to 200 and the military corps is dealing with a shortage of coffins. The victims of the attack are mostly from the northern provinces of the country.
President Ashraf Ghani meanwhile visited the army base on Saturday and declared Sunday a national day of mourning.
Atta Muhammad Noor, the provincial governor, said the president had ordered an investigation to find out whether there was any truth in allegations of insider help.
More than 6,700 members of the Afghan security forces lost their lives in 2016, a record high that is nearly three times the total American casualties in the Afghan war.
The high number of casualties of Afghan troops has also raised concerns among the NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Head of the U.S Forces Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, recently requested a few thousand additional American soldiers to assist in training Afghan recruits.
Last week, U.S President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R McMaster said in an interview with TOLOnews that members of the Taliban who refuse to join the peace process will be defeated on the battlegrounds.
“The Taliban must be defeated as well. They can be defeated in a number of ways. For those that are reconcilable, who are now willing to join their Afghan brothers to strengthen the Afghan state, to end the violence, to be part of the political process, I think your president and the chief executive officer will welcome them back in. So it is their choice now,” he said.