Men, young and old,stood outside the mosque after offering their Friday prayers. Children, too, came out with books in their hands, heading for home. There was no talk of politics, the government, or the Taliban. Instead, people were chatting about farming and other mundane topics. Suddenly a loud explosion was heard.
When the smoke cleared, there was blood and moaning all around. At least nine people, including small children, were killed and another dozen were seriously injured.
The incident occurred on December 4 in Sayed Abad district of Maidan Wardak province.
Residents of the area are convinced that it was the Afghan National Army that caused the damage.
The government is not admitting to anything yet, but three ANA soldiers have been arrested.
In a declaration from the Arg, President Ashraf Ghani expressed deep concern about the incident.
“The president ordered theMinistry of Defense to appoint a commission for further investigation of the case. At the end of the investigation, if the soldiers under suspicion are found to be culpable, they will be introduced to the judicial organs of the government,” read the declaration.
On Sunday morning, December 6, tribal elders, parliamentarians, provincial council members and the families of victims met with the governor of Wardak, Hayatullah Hayat. The governor assured the victims’ families that he would demand justice.
“The national army did the attack, but it is still unknown why they fired into this area,” said the governor. “A board from the provincial office and the Ministry of Defense is investigating the case and will soon identify the criminals and will punish them.”
In a video shown on Shamshad TV, the three arrested soldiers admitted that they had fired the mortar round.
“Our commander ordered us to fire into the forest; we don’t know how this happened,” said one of them.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Afghans including civil activists, government officials, tribal elders and common people from different tribes gathered in Kabul, in Abdul Haq square,to condemn the killing of innocents. People in Dasht-e-Barchi, in the western part of the capital, also lit candles for the martyrs of Wardak.
“Foreign troops and insurgents kill innocent people, while on the other hand they are killed by the government and the security forces due to mismanagement,” he said.
Hamida Wardak, a civil activist, said that the government could no longer expect people’s support.
“I am ashamed of having voted for this government,” she said angrily. “I would rather be a housewife in a village and have never voted at all.”
MP Abdul Rahim Ayobi also attended the demonstration.”When the Taliban and Dayesh (ISIS) kill people, the president calls for patience, saying that they are insurgents and are ignorant,” he said.“But what will he say when it’s national army soldiers who are doing the killing?”
At a press conference in Kabul on Monday, parliamentarians from Wardak demanded that the army base from which the mortar rounds were fired be removed.
“The president should keep his word,” said Sher Wali Wardak, and MP from the province. “At a meeting with us today , he said he would remove the army base and build a madrassa.”
The presidential palace released a statement confirming this promise, with the president adding that he would fund the madrassa out of his own pocket.
“If the president or the Defense Ministry does not punish the perpetrators, we will block the Kabul — Kandahar highway,” said Sher Wali.
Tempers are running high, judging by the demonstrators who gathered on Sunday.
“The government should arrange a committee to investigate the case accurately, and the people should know about every single detail of it until the criminals are punished,” said Mohammad Omar Aaryan.
Noman Dost, a resident of Jalalabad city, was bitter about the incident.
“People say that those who have worn the uniform for people’s security have killed people,” he said. “This is an unforgivable crime. The criminals must be punished and we must stop this from happening again. Otherwise, people will think of the national army soldiers as murderers.”