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Kabul Diary - 18 August 2009

Amanullah Ghilzai

*Amanullah Ghilzai is Managing Editor of the VOA Pashto Afghan service
 
Day 4 in Afghanistan


We were woken up early this morning by two blasts of a rocket attack on the city center. One of the rockets hit the ground, meters away from the Presidential Palace. Later on, we were told by a group of Afghan journalists that the Taliban were desperate to scare the people off so that many of them don't go to the polling stations on August 20th to vote in the elections. The Afghan TV channels got the news of the attack within minutes and started live coverage of the incident with comments that this is the maximum that the Taliban can do to sabotage the August 20th presidential elections. 

Later on, I, with our Kabul Bureau Chief, Ekram Shinwari and a colleague from the VOA Deewa Radio, Wagma Jalawan, went to the town center and found the whole city almost empty, but the shops were open. In the Sharenou area of Kabul, we could see some people on the streets and scores of Afghan street children who immediately encircled us to get some money from us to buy food. Wagma felt very emotional and broke into tears to see children as old as seven or eight, starving and begging for money on the streets.

Mr. Shinwari who has lived in Kabul during the years of war, consoled Wagma and told her that Afghanistan has been hit by so many tragedies during the last three decades of war that many Afghans were glad simply to be alive even if they were starving. I felt really moved and with a heavy heart went to see one of our colleagues, Shaista Sadat of the VOA's Afghan TV who is in the town to cover the election for the VOA's Pashto TV program. Shaista Sadat is keeping a very low profile in Kabul because of security concerns. Being a very successful TV anchor, Shaista is one of the well known faces of VOA's Afghan TV in Afghanistan. Shaista was in a western dress but wore big sun glasses making it almost impossible for anybody to recognize her.

When our team got back to the VOA office, we were told that several suicide and rocket attacks have taken place at four locations, including one in a eastern part of Kabul city, killing several people, including two U.S. soldiers, while the rest of the victims were mostly civilians. In the crowded VOA office, our colleagues started working on their news stories.     

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