As It Happens

'People crying and screaming': Afghan journalist describes chaos, carnage of Kabul suicide attack

Video journalist Rateb Noori was filming people fleeing the scene of the deadly suicide bombing when another blast went off right in front of him.
Afghan women mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack killed dozens in Kabul on Thursday. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

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While others fled the scene of a deadly suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, video journalist Rateb Noori rushed toward it.

Suicide bombers stormed a Shia cultural centre in the Afghan capital killing dozens of people, many of them students attending a conference to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

When Noori arrived on the scene, panicked people were already rushing out of the building and running for their lives.

An Afghan man runs away as dust blows in the aftermath of a blast at a Shia cultural centre in Kabul. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

He trained his camera on a man and a woman about 50 metres away.

"The man was trying to kind of help the woman to come out of that place," he told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "She was quite scared and panicked, of course."

Then another blast went off right in front of his eyes.

When the dust cleared, Noori looked back at where the pair had been standing just moments before. 

"I couldn't see those people anymore," he said. "The explosion exactly happened in front of them."

Shattered glass, bloodstained floors

Waheed Majrooh, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, said 41 people, including four women and two children, were killed in the attack, and 84 were wounded.

The floors of the centre, at the basement level, were covered in blood as wailing survivors and relatives picked through the debris, while windows of a news agency on the second floor were all shattered.

Blood stains are seen at the site of the attack. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

"You could see people crying and screaming and trying to find the lost ones, trying to contact them, trying to kind of be hopeful for their life and pray for their loved ones to be alive," Noori said.

"There were some remnants of the stuff they were carrying like shoes, bags, books, notebooks, pens and those kind of things and they were, you know, stained with blood."

Abandoned shoes belonging to victims after a bomb attack are pictured at a Shia cultural centre in Kabul on December 28, 2017. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunni, Shia 'solidarity' 

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The hard-line Sunni militant organization has been ramping up violence against Shia targets over the last year.

Prior to Thursday, there had been at least 12 attacks on Shia targets since the start of 2016, during which almost 700 people were killed or wounded, according to UN figures. Before that, there had only been one major attack, in 2011.

Rateb Noori has seen a lot of violence working as a journalist in Afghanistan. (Submitted by Rateb Noori)

But if ISIS's goal is to divide Sunni and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan, Noori said it's not working.

"They have always been together, they have stood for each other and even today, you know, most of the Sunnis went to the hospital to donate blood to show solidarity," he said.

"And the attack was condemned by Sunni community and Sunni legislators, [as well as] by Shia leaders stating that such attacks will never create any kind of gap or rift between Sunni and Shia communities."

Dealing with trauma

Noori said he was scared when the blast went off in front of him, but as a video journalist in a war-torn country, he's grown accustomed to seeing horrible things.

"We have kind of gotten used to this situation, but still it's not very easy to not think about such attacks," he said.

"Today, after that attack happened, at some point I was thinking, 'What if I was very close to the scene?' I mean, I would never know whether I was alive or dead or injured."

An Afghan man mourns inside a hospital compound after the deadly attack. Noori said people were running around in a panic, trying to find their lost friends and loved ones. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

— With files from Reuters

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