Khpalwak's prayer in his dying moments
KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): "Death is approaching. Pray for me if I die," reporter Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak wrote in a text message to his brother shortly before he died in Thursday’s attack in Uruzgan.
Khpalwak's friends and relatives, government officials, and doctors give different accounts about the circumstances that led to his death in the organised assault that targeted three government buildings in Tirinkot, the provincial capital.
According to some local officials and doctors, 19 people, including two policemen, were killed and another 37 people, including three policemen, injured in the suicide and gun attacks.
But the provincial council chief, Amanullah Hotaki, put the toll at 25 dead and 40 wounded.
He said the dead and wounded included women and children, who were trying to visit the civil hospital and got caught in the crossfire.
Pajhwok reporter Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak was among the dead. His brother, Ahmad Javed, said Khpalwak was inside his office, which was at the government Radio and Television Department. The militants launched their attacks at around 12:20 pm.
Javed said his brother had received multiple bullet wounds.
"My brother hid himself in a bathroom when the fighting began. At 12:20pm, Khpalwak sent his first SMS to me, saying that death was approaching and he was hiding in a bathroom," Javed said. In his second message at 12:41 pm, Khpalwak asked his brother to pray for him if he died.
Javed said his brother was found dead in the same bathroom where he was hiding. The wall of the bathroom was blown up, but there was no sign of dust on his body, Javed said.
Javed said Khpalwak was shot dead by foreign troops who entered the compound.
The troops mistook the reporter for a militant, he said. His BBC and Pajhwok service cards were found stained with blood near Khpalwak's body. Javed said this showed that Khpalwak had showed his service cards to the troops.
"When I reached the site to collect my brother’s body, translators with foreign troops were gossiping that his face looked Arab, and some others said Khpalwak looked Pakistani," Javed said.
He said that foreign troops had mistaken his brother for a suicide bomber and killed him. Javed reasoned that his brother was alive until 12:41 pm.
Civil hospital director Dr. Khan Agha Miakhel said that Khpalwak had received bullet and shrapnel injuries. "He received 11 bullets in the head and right shoulder and shrapnel injuries in the face.” He said it was not clear who killed Khpalwak.
Miakhel said there was firing in all directions during the attacks, with helicopters shelling militant positions.
Power department director Sami Sharaft, who took some pictures of Khpalwak's body after the attack, confirmed Javed’s account, saying the reporter's body was found inside a bathroom whose wall was destroyed.
"There were bullet holes on his body. Some blood-stained cards were also lying near his body," he recalled.
The governor's spokesman, Ahmad Milad Mudassir, also said that there were differing views about the circumstances surrounding Khpalwak's death.
"There was a huge blast before the attackers entered the government Radio and Television Department. Ahmad Omaid was shot and injured by the attackers. The reporter then somehow moved to another room from where he had sent messages to his brother," the official said.
Khpalwak had been filing a report about a police graduation ceremony on his computer alongside another reporter, Ahmad Shah Jawad, who left the scene a few minutes before the attacks began, the governor’s spokesman said.
Quoting a guard at the government Radio and Television Department, Mudassir said there was a huge blast when the attacks began. The watchman had asked Khpalwak to flee. The attackers had fired at the watchman, but he escaped unhurt. The attackers then entered the room where Khpalwak was hiding.
Ahmad Shah Jawad, who works for Bayan Radio, said he was with Khpalwak minutes before the attacks, but he had left for lunch.
A television cameraman, Nasim, said he left the site three minutes before the attacks began.
Khpalwak made his last phone call to his tailor friend, Agha.
Agha told Pajhwok Afghan News that he had phoned Khpalwak to ask about the attacks.
"After a few rings, Khpalwak picked up the phone and told me he was in trouble and all of a sudden, his phone turned off," he said.
The friend said he got concerned and redialed Khpalwak's phone number many times, but he did not answer.
In a statement on their website, the Taliban have condemned Khpalwak’s death.
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