Stealing shade from a tree at the front of the compound, Wazir quietly recited details of the dead: Abdul Basir, an unemployed man in his early 50s; his daughter Fatima; Qayum, in his 40s, who sold confections in Kabul but was home for Fatima’s wedding; and Salima, 35, his wife.
Then there were Qayum and Salima’s four children, ages 2 to 10, and three other young children belonging to Salima’s sister, the youngest being 8 months. The others were relatives who had traveled to Sajawand for Fatima’s wedding.
“There was no political person in this house worth targeting,” said Wazir. “They were simply here for the wedding.”
At the nearby graveyard were 13 freshly dug graves. The other five bodies had been taken to the hometowns of the deceased for burial, explained a tribal elder, Mohammad Anwar Kochi.
The incident also underscored how innocent civilians continue to be caught between ISAF and Afghan government forces on one hand and insurgents on the other. No one interviewed in Sajawand could confirm the presence of Taliban in the village on the night the compound was attacked. The most any villager would admit to hearing was shooting around 1:30 a.m., before the airstrike.
Asked whether the Taliban had been using one of the family’s houses for a meeting, the villagers declined to answer. Some responded, in effect: “What can we do if the Taliban show up and demand the use of our home?”
Several people said it was possible that the insurgents had used Qayum Akhundzadah’s home for a meeting. The Taliban maintain a strong presence in the area; while driving out of Sajawand on the way to Pul-i-Alam, the provincial capital, a McClatchy reporter and driver were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint on the main road.
“The Americans should get rid of the Taliban. If they cannot do that, they should leave,” Kochi said. He added that the Taliban were “all over the place,” yet the government lied about their presence. He added, quoting an Afghan proverb, “We cannot hide the sun with two fingers.”
Earlier Thursday, Logar’s governor, Mohammad Tahir Sabri, said that security in his province was good, “contrary to reports in the media.” Yet the official delegation investigating the airstrike had to be flown the short distance from the provincial capital by U.S. military helicopters.
Mohammad Yar, Fatima’s second cousin, said that Karzai must hold the U.S.-led coalition accountable.
“We want revenge on the Americans,” he said, his face contorted with anger, “and we want the president to help us take our revenge.” He said that he had spoken by phone with Karzai.
“The president has broken a lot of his promises in the past. But he promised me that, this time, he will definitely pursue the case with the Americans,” Yar said. “If our demands are not met, we will go to Karzai and ask him to kill us, too.”