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THE SHOCK

“Like a bomb blast”: When two men fell from a flying plane and on this man’s roof in Kabul

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On Aug. 16, Wali Salek was resting in his two-storey home in District 11 in Khair Khana, a neighbourhood in the northwest of Kabul. His daughters were cooking and his two sons were asleep. Suddenly, a loud thud from above jolted the family awake.

“It sounded like a bomb blast,” Salek told Scroll.in over a video call on Tuesday afternoon. The 47-year-old works as a security guard in the main city nearly 9km away from his home.

Plaster began to crumble down from the walls and ceiling. Hearing the crash, his neighbours came out of their homes, Salek said. He climbed up to the roof of his house to see what had happened.

He was greeted by a horrific scene, he said: blood splattered across his roof and two bodies, badly damaged. “Their stomachs and their heads had cracked open,” Salek said. “Their brains had come out.”

But where had the bodies dropped from? Salek lives about 8 km away from the Hamid Karzai International Airport and his neighbours told him they watched as two men holding on to the wheel of a plane had fallen off.

News of the tragedy spread quickly—and it wasn’t long before Salek’s relative Shapoor Zarifi in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar heard about it. The 27-year-old Zarifi, who runs a travel agency and a property company, put Scroll.in in touch with Salek. As Salek described the dramatic events in Pashto, Zarifi translated the video call into Hindi.

Salek sent photographs and videos of the bodies, which Scroll.in has chosen not to publish.

Vijayta Lalwani
Wali Salek, over a video call, with Shapoor Zarifi and this reporter.

By Aug. 15, the Taliban had taken full control of the capital leaving several residents scrambling at the airport to find a way out of the country.

On Aug. 16, videos emerged from Kabul showed chaotic scenes of thousands gathered at the airport. Some were trying to desperately cling on to a US Air Force plane as it was gearing to take off from the runway.

Another horrific video showed people falling off the same plane while it was mid-air.

“When I saw them [on the roof], I first thought they were Taliban men who were thrown off the plane but we [the neighbours] checked the bodies,” Salek said.

Salek sent a photo of the plaster on his ceiling that had cracked and crumbled after the bodies fell on his roof.

His wife, Zakia Salek, had followed him up to the roof but fainted after she saw the bodies, he said. He took her down to the bedroom and then gathered 10 to 12 of his neighbours. They wrapped the bodies in cloth and blankets, and took them to Amir Hamza Mosque at 1 pm, Salek said.

Salek sent a photo of the blood splattered across his roof.

Salek’s neighbour confirmed to Scroll.in that two men fell onto his roof around noon on Monday. “I thought it was an explosion but when I came out there was no explosion,” said Abdul Wajid, a 20-year old who lives with his family in the area.

“Two young people fell from the aeroplane…on the roof of Wali Salek,” Wajid said. “When I saw them they were dead.” The young man, who graduated from Mohammad Anwar Bismil High School located 2 km away from his home, is currently unemployed.

The bodies of the two men were then taken to the mosque located 300 metres away, he said. The maulana of the mosque found the identity card of both the men from the pockets of their clothes after which their families were contacted, Wajid said.

Abdul Wajid sent a photo of Maulana Abdul Rabbani of the neighbourhood mosque.

Salek identified one of the men as Shafiullah Hotak after he found his birth certificate in the zipped pocket of the coat he wore over a shirt. Hotak appeared to be aged between 25 and 27 years, he said. The other man appeared to be barely 20 years old and Salek claimed that he did not find any identity markers for this man, or other markers such as rings, wristwatch, bracelets, or chains on either of them.

Wajid said the mosque authorities had identified the second man as Fida Mohammad who hailed from Paghman, a town near Kabul.

After Salek dropped the bodies at the mosque, he said he returned home and washed away the remnants of flesh from his roof. He then took a taxi to the city to start his six-hour-long shift at 6 pm.

When he returned home that night, his neighbours told him that the families of the men had come to claim them at the mosque. Hotak, he claimed, was a doctor who hailed from Hotkhil village in Kabul, and the other man hailed from Qargha, also located within the capital.

Living close to the airport, Salek and his family had become used to the harsh sounds of military aircraft moving about. But he had never imagined anything thundering from the sky and onto the roof of his house.

“I thought maybe the plane would drop some dollars but never bodies,” Salek said.

But the whole incident has left the family harrowed and fearful about their safety in the city. His wife has been unable to eat or sleep. In his family, including his six children, he is the only one with a passport, so leaving the country would not be possible. For now, the family was trying to relocate to a safer province.

By Aug. 17, his wife had left Kabul with one of their daughters to travel to Panjshir province, situated north of the country. “We are in shock and we are not feeling safe,” Salek said.

Vijayta Lalwani
Shapoor Zarifi in South Delhi and Salek in Kabul over a video call.

“So much desperation”

Salek’s relative in Delhi, Shapoor Zarifi, also hails from Panjshir province. He came to Delhi in 2014.

As the Taliban have taken charge of most of the country, Zarifi has been inundated with phone calls from Afghanistan with desperate pleas for help. Afghans with passports, birth certificates and financial resources asked for his help in filling out their visa applications to India.

But none of that would matter until flights start again from Kabul. Zarifi said that his family including his mother, three brothers and two sisters, have been granted visas to India but are now stuck in Afghanistan.

The videos pouring in from the country made him more anxious and angry.

“I can tell you that 90% of the people do not want the Taliban government or its rule,” Zarifi said. “Nobody can trust them and it does not matter if you are Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. There is so much desperation that is why people are risking their lives to leave.”

This piece was originally published on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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