Rockets Return to Kabul

Rockets Return to Kabul
The end of a rocket protrudes from the roof of the hotel where it struck.

Written by (reporters name withheld for their safety), edited by Mohammad Jawad Alizada & Brian Conley

KABUL — Since the Taliban’s takeover, everyone in Kabul is scared, but when there’s a rocket attack, a reporter has to investigate. On my way to Shahrak-e-Tilayi, the area where the rockets were fired, I tried to speak with the driver about the situation, and what transpired last night. But the taxi driver ignored my curiosity and changed the subject. Even taxi drivers, who must traverse the entire city daily, are afraid.

I was in the area looking for where the rockets were fired. The third street of Shahrak-e Tilayi is about 700 meters away from the main road. There was a Taliban Ford Ranger on the scene when I made it to the location. To avoid the Taliban, I went into a store and pretended to buy a pack of biscuits to figure out the exact location of the incident. Meanwhile the store owner’s neighbors were passing by and saying hello to him.

Rezaye, the 65 year-old store owner, lives on the same street where seven rockets were launched. Rezaye Khuda’s store is located in a crowded area, reached by walking through twisting alleys. The rockets hit several different locations including a Taliban checkpoint and a restaurant/hotel. There was no word about the number of casualties that resulted from the rocket attack.

According to Rezaye, the rockets were launched from his neighbor Rokai’s house. Rokai, a taxi driver, lived in the home with his brother who is a mechanic. The brothers are originally from the Qarabagh district of Kabul province. They fled their home after the rockets were launched.

“We immediately took the children home after the shooting stopped and started looking for the reason and location of the rockets. We found out after some time that the rockets were fired from our neighbor Rokai’s house due to the area being fully covered in dust and smoke.” Rezaye told me.

Rezaye Khuda could not believe that Rokai did not consider his neighbors’ rights, made everyone worry about him, and spilled the blood of innocent civilians. Rezaye Khuda says that Rokai was driving his taxi as normal and his brother worked as a mechanic. They went to work every day and all seemed normal after the Taliban arrived, but the brothers left their home after the incident.

One rocket strike can be seen on the roof of the hotel in the background.

Taliban soldiers arrived at the scene about two hours after the incident and cordoned off the area. According to Rezaye, the soldiers knocked on doors and questioned the neighbors from 10 pm to 1 am but apologized for disturbing everyone. Rezaye said these Taliban seemed very different as compared to the first time they were ruling Afghanistan.

I needed to stay in Rezaye Khuda’s store longer to collect more information, I bought a bottle of water and continued our conversation. It got to around 12 noon and I had to take pictures of Rokai’s house; but the Taliban had not left yet. I exited Rezaye Khuda’s store and used another alley to get to Rokai’s house; but it appeared like the Taliban were suspicious of me; because when I arrived in the area, their vehicle passed me and I left the area to avoid getting beaten by them. Before that I tried taking pictures of the house by pretending to be on a call, with the phone to my ear, but didn’t succeed. I was becoming more scared because the Taliban soldiers have a reputation for hitting people with the butts of their weapon without any warning, as soon as they see them taking pictures or asking questions about a particular subject.

So I left the area around Rokai’s house and went to the Mazar taxi station, one of the locations where the rockets landed. Taliban soldiers were also parading around the area. I was unable to meet anyone and did not introduce myself as a reporter because I was afraid of the Taliban. I entered a mosque and pretended to get ready for prayers and took a few pictures from the mosque window of the place where one of the rockets had hit. Although I was nervous and scared I was able to take a few pictures of the location of the attack.

One of the rockets struck a hotel. After speaking with the owner, Esmatullah, he agreed to take me to the second floor where one of the rockets had struck the building. He came with me to the location while I took some pictures of the damage from up close, but he never asked who I was. There was still fear in his eyes as a result of the previous night’s incident. Esmatulalh said the Taliban visited his hotel last night but hadn’t sent anyone to remove the projectile from the wall of his hotel. Despite all of this, Esmatullah asked me to stay for lunch but I refused, there was still work to be done..

Mechanics shops fill the area in front of the hotel, while families sleep upstairs.

I returned to the taxi station and found three children around 13 years-old talking about what happened the night before. They said a rocket hit Bostan street, another hit a garage near the Mazar taxi station, and another hit a Taliban checkpoint near the power substation. There were rumors that a number of Taliban were killed. Unfortunately, we could not verify that information with the Taliban.

There was a canteen near the Mazar taxi station, I went inside to try to find someone who might have more information. I bought a bottle of water from the owner of the canteen, a 15 year-old boy. Wahid, the canteen owner, told me that he will never forget last night’s incident. He was busy selling goods when suddenly dozens of cans of energy drinks fell on his head. Everyone was fleeing the area and he left his canteen. It was only later he realized that the rocket had hit the hotel wall. A 2000 model Toyota Corolla was also damaged in the attack, but it wasn’t in the area when I arrived. The rocket attack did not leave any casualties in this area.

After visiting all the locations I could, and since the Taliban did not appear to be leaving any time soon, I left the area to find my next story.

Editor’s note: Given the increasing fear among average people in Kabul, and our desire to provide an understanding of daily life, you may find many of our stories written from the first person perspective. We’ve encouraged our reporters to write about their own impressions, not in a way that blurs facts or reduces accuracy, but helps the reader better understand the situation on the ground.