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Eyewitness Describes Afghan Resort Attack

Afghan security forces retrieve one of the casualties from the attack and overnight siege at the popular Qargha Lake recreation area near Kabul that reportedly killed at least 20 people.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, eyewitness Muhammad Sahrif Alakozai described the scene after Taliban militants stormed a popular resort outside Kabul on June 21. The raid began a nearly 12-hour assault that Afghan authorities say left at least 20 dead, including civilians and at least four attackers. Interview conducted by correspondent Hameed Mohmand.

RFE/RL: Last night you were present at the Spozmai hotel when the attack began. Can you tell us how it began?

Alakozai: The attack began after we had dinner. We were ready to go home and as we reached the door, there was a lot of firing. Most of my friends dispersed. Only one friend stayed behind with me.

RFE/RL: Can you describe how the attackers were dressed?

Alakozai: I saw three attackers. Two of them were wearing normal Afghan clothes, while the third was in a police uniform. They were carrying a lot of ammunition. One of the attackers [in the uniform] was a handsome young man. He was talking on the phone to someone.

READ a detailed report on the attack

RFE/RL: What was he saying?

Alakozai: He was saying, "Hamza Sahib" or "Hafiz Sahib, please pray for us, we are going inside." After that, something horrible happened in front of our eyes. They shot a handsome young man in his legs and then went and shot him in the chest four or five times with a Kalashinkov rifle.

RFE/RL: There were many wedding receptions going on here at the time of the attack. How were they [the attackers] treating average people?

Alakozai: They were shooting people without asking any questions. They stormed one part of the restaurant with full force. We could only hear the [weapons] firing coming from the other side. Later they began coming over to the our side one by one. They began shooting anybody coming their way. They would fire two or three shots at anyone coming their way.

RFE/RL: You were there for the duration of the attack. How many people do you think were shot?

Alakozai: I think nearly 50 to 60 people guests were here at the time of the attack, because it was late. Normally there are a lot more people on a Thursday evening. After the fighting was over, we asked the police commandos [about the survivors]. Thirteen of us hid downstairs. Three people swam away across the lake. So there must be 30 to 40 casualties. (By 15:00 GMT on June 22, Afghan authorities had confirmed the deaths of at least 20 people, including civilians and at least four attackers. No numbers were given for those injured.)

RFE/RL: When did the police begin their operation?

Alakozai: First, police special forces arrived in helicopters after the attack. We were able to point out our location to them. Then they circled and went away. They spent a lot of time here. We were able to point out our location to them when they returned.

RFE/RL: Were there any foreign forces involved in the operation?

Alakozai: There were foreign forces, but the Afghan commandos were doing most of the fighting.

RFE/RL: Do you think any civilians were harmed during the police operation?

Alakozai: I think they harmed no one. I wanted to escape but I was with friends who couldn't swim. This problem hampered our escape. After we were rescued, we were told it was a good thing because something could have happened to us. The police were arresting everybody coming out of here.

Interview conducted by Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Hameed Mohmand; translated by Abubakar Siddique