What the photographers saw at Kabul’s Ashura blast

Several eyewitness accounts have emerged describing the moments immediately following the horrific explosion in Kabul. Here are three accounts.

Najibullah Musafer, veteran Afghan photographer

Yesterday, Muharram 10, I was barely 15 to 20 meters away from the suicide bomber. I was busy photographing mourners who had come from Khushi, Logar [Province]. The nauha reciters had been singing in Pashto and Dari and the mourners had been self-flagellating for about 20 minutes when the heart-wrenching sound of an explosion suddenly arose. Just three or four minutes ago I was taking pictures of mourners right where the explosion took place. After the explosion some of the mourners and the people around them were hit by shrapnel; they were lying on the ground. Some, who hadn’t been hit, were running away; others were lying low, expecting another blast. I was dazed for a few seconds, but then I realized that I was fine and started taking pictures. Some mourners who had been away from the blast were coming to help the victims. Cries of men, women and children could be heard — that was very moving for me. I was especially moved by [the sight] of a mother holding two of her children — all three of them dead. I was photographing these scenes for the history of Afghanistan and humanity and documenting [violations of] human rights when an emotionally charged young man started kicking and punching me to prevent me from taking pictures. Some people who knew me took this idiotic young man, who was apparently a mourner, away from me. Then I also left the scene. I couldn’t sleep until very late that night. I wasn’t afraid, but each time I remembered the mother and her two children – all of whom had been martyred – I felt shaken and a very strange feeling took over me. My father, mother, sister and brother would come to my mind. My wife, son and daughter would come to my mind. Undoubtedly, those who were martyred yesterday were [like] our father, mother, sister, brother, wife, daughter and son. We are all like a family under Afghanistan’s roof. Every year mourners converge from all nooks and corners of Kabul and some surrounding provinces to mourn for the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussain, at the Abulfazl al-Abbas shrine in an organized manner. But this year, the enemies of Islam created an incident.

Massoud Hossaini, Afghan photograher working for AFP

“I was taking pictures and I did want to help,” he said. “But I just saw that the bodies were completely destroyed and I said, ‘O.K. I can’t do anything for them, so I have to wait for whoever comes.’”


One of the women who was holding a baby, called out for help — her other child had died. Another man lifted the child from the ground. But blood was pouring from its head. The man placed the child back on the ground and walked away.

More about Massoud and the story behind his iconic photo that landed on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times is here.

John Wendle, Time Magazine photographer
Vodpod videos no longer available.

If the embed above doesn’t work, you can watch the video on the CNN website.

Update: Independent photojournalist Joel van Houdt, who was also at the scene, has this account of the events for the Wall Street Journal.

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