2007 Baghlan factory blast: Victims’ families still await justice
PUL-I-KHUMRI (Pajhwok): Families who lost their beloved ones to a 2007 bombing that killed 80 people including some lawmakers in northern Baghlan province complain the government has never asked about their problems in seven years that passed after the incident.
The 80 dead included six members of the Wolesi Jirga’s economic commission, including the panel’s head Syed Mustafa Kazami, and 60 students and five teachers welcoming the lawmakers to inaugurate a sugar mill.
More than 100 people, including school students, were wounded in the blast believed to be caused by a bomb full of ball-bearings on November 6, 2007.
Eyewitnesses at the time had said some students and civilians were killed in retaliatory firing by security personnel and bodyguards of lawmakers.
Asadullah, 60, lost his three young sons in the incident. He told Pajhwok Afghan News: “I had four sons, three of them were killed in the bombing near the sugar mill and one died two years after the incident. Their deaths broke my back and I lost hope in life.”
The heartbroken old man has been working in the sugar mill against 6,000 afghanis in monthly wage and is living in an old house granted by the mill.
Inside the house, there is an old Iranian carpet, some mattresses and pillows and some old appliances. His sons Naqibullah was a policeman and Ahmad Wisal was in 12th class and Hashmatullah a 10th grader and Ahmad Seyar, a student of 8th class, when they died.
Assaddulah, whose eyes spoke of his pain, said his eldest son Naqibullah would help the family a lot after the deaths of Hashmat, Wisal and Seyar. “He also helped us in household chores and supported us in difficult times.”
“He was our last hope. He joined the police and came home after three years, but Taliban captured him in Baghlan-i-Markazi and killed him.”
The loss of Naqibullah was another disaster which was hard for the elderly father to bear. “My sons used to bring different things for us in evening and would study during nighttime,” he said, calling as difficult forgetting those memorable moments they spent together.
“A sudden gust in form of a suicide bombing took away everything from us and now we are living with our six-year-old son, Nasir.”
Humira, the wife of Asadullah, who was sitting under a willow tree lost in deep thoughts. She immediately covered her head with her scarf when this reporter entered their house. She said the loss of her four sons had caused a permanent injury to her heart.
The mother, who hardly agreed to be interviewed, discontentedly entered the room where photos of her four sons were attached to wall.
“If you suddenly lose four sons young, kind, polite, would you be able to move or talk,” Humaira said, as her voice crumbled and tears shone in her eyes.
She said she could not enter this room where photos of her sons were affixed to the wall. “I want the government to find the killers of my sons. It remains unclear as yet whether my sons were killed in a suicide attack or in a bomb blast. We don’t know who committed this brutal action,” she said.
Humaira and Asadullah when asked about government’s assistance, they said: “The government in the first days of the incident paid us an amount of money and sent Asadullah to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, but the aid did not continue.”
Asadullah said the government had promised families of martyrs would receive a card through which they would monthly receive an amount of money. Despite eight years had passed, the government was yet to pay a single penny to them, he added. He said he had turned old and was unable to do a job.
A number of children have mentally affected after the incident. Mohammad Nasim 50, a resident of sugar mill colony, said his son was 12-year-old when he received two bullets in the head in the incident. “My son was under treatment for one year and his health has somehow improved, but memories of the incident still haunt him and he cannot work,” the father said.
He said his son Rafiqullah could not go outside home lonely, a person must help him in his movement.
“The government has helped us in treatment of my son, but the help should have been extended until full recovery of his health. Rafiqullah is now an adult, but we are sad, we cannot do anything for his treatment,” Nasim said.
He angrily said that several government officials during the first days of the incident had been coming to their area, promising help with victims’ families, but they did not honour their promises despite local residents provided them with all needed documents.
The officials had said they would find and arrest the perpetrators and reveal their names to the public, something they could not do as yet, Nasim said.
The incident also left a number of children paralyzed. Shamsuddin, 22, who was injured in the head and other body parts, said his hands unintentionally shake and he cannot control his mouth.
He talked to Pajhwok with difficulties. “Dear journalist, can you see me. I am one of the victims of the blast. My brother Javid who was younger than me was killed and his body mutilated into pieces in the blast.”
Shamsuddin’s father Mohammad Daud repairs shoes in front of a shop and earns 100-200 afghanis a day, but the money he earns is insufficient to cover expenses of his son, two daughters and his wife and sometimes they pass nights with empty-stomachs.
The government provided 200,000 afs to families for each killed and 150,000 afs for each injured along with a plot of land to each family in Chihil Jiriba area of Baghlan-i-Markazi district, but they have no money to build houses.
“When the Wolesi Jirga delegation entered the sugar mill area, school children were welcoming them on the roadside. As Mustafa Kazimi and other lawmakers got down from vehicles and started proceeding toward the students, there was a sudden explosion and firing ranged. I was about 10-20 metres close to the delegation, “one of the eyewitnesses of the incident and a surgeon at the Baghlan-i-Markazi hospital, Khalil Naramgo, said.
The mill’s security chief and deputy director and another person were killed in firings that followed the blast and four other people were injured, he said, adding that he removed a bullet from the foot of a child.
“It was one of the bloodiest incidents claiming the lives of innocent civilians, but the government did nothing to arrest the perpetrators,” he said.
Some local officials, commanders and members of the provincial council were promoting their own interests in the plots distribution scheme for the victims’ families and the school destroyed in the blast was yet to be reconstructed, he said.
All classrooms and walls of the school building have been destroyed and now students in 14 classes study in the open. The school has nearly 2000 students, according to Naramgo.
Acting education director Abdul Qadar Rasuli confirmed the school’s condition, saying they had shared the issue with the Ministry of Education, but failed to elicit a positive response.
Shukria Issakhel, a lower house member from Baghlan, said her both legs were injured in the blast. “After being injured in the blast, I was taken to hospital in Kabul. As I gain senses, I searched for other injured people and tried to ensure that every wounded person was getting proper treatment,” she said.
Some of the victims have been suffering from mental problems after the incident that seriously affected many people, she said.
They did a lot to help the victims’ families prepare necessary documents, but the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has so far not given the promised aid to the affected families, the lawmaker said, assailing the government for not resuming work on the factory to provide work opportunities to people.
The parliament holds commemoration sessions every November and lawmakers also ask about progress in the investigation into the attack, but they get no proper answer. Taliban insurgents have so far not claimed responsibility for the incident.
However, at the time, a Ministry of Interior spokesman had said some suspects had been arrested in connection with the brutal attack.
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