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Kabul/Johannesburg - Her name was Fatima. She was 22. She volunteered for the job. On Tuesday morning, she drove her car through Kabul’s heavy morning traffic in the direction of the Kabul International Airport.
The car was packed with explosives. Her target: a minibus of foreigners.
Some eyewitnesses said the minibus had stopped at a petrol station. Other reports said it was on an eight-lane highway.
Fatima drove towards it.
On Tuesday, at about 4am, she fulfilled her mission. Eyewitnesses said the bomb blast was so powerful, it hurled the minibus 50m.
At least 12 people were killed, eight of them South Africans.
The Afghani militant group Hezb-e-Islami telephoned the Associated Press, and revealed Fatima’s role. They claimed responsibility for the attack.
Their reason? An anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, that was made in the US and sparked outrage across the Muslim world for its bigoted representation of the Prophet Muhammad.
What started in Cairo soon spread to Libya, then the rest of the Muslim world.
On Monday, hundreds of Afghans set cars alight and threw rocks at a US military base in Kabul.
About 31 people have died in the subsequent violence, including the US ambassador to Libya.
“The anti-Islam film hurt our religious sentiments and we cannot tolerate it,” spokesman Haroon Zarghoon reportedly said from an undisclosed location.
He warned of more attacks against foreign Nato employees.
“Foreign troops are fighting against Afghans and foreign civilians are tasked to spy for them,” Zarghoon said. “They are all our enemy and they will be our target.”
Only, the 12 people killed were neither film-makers nor Americans, nor were they Nato employees.
They were reportedly four Afghans and eight South Africans employed by private aviation contractors ACS/BalmOral.
They are based at Germiston’s Rand Airport and conduct relief, development and humanitarian flights in remote and troubled regions.
Another 11 Afghani civilians were reportedly injured.
Just a month ago, an employee tweeted: ”Back in Afghanistan and wondering what lies before [me] this time?”
CEO Sej Dunning wrote to a friend on Facebook: “Yes, we are operating in Afghanistan. Can’t seem to keep away from where the bullets fly about.”
Though some of the victims’s names are known to The Star, the company said it was still confirming the identities of those killed and contacting relatives.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Nelson Kgwete
said: “We will provide the usual consular assistance to the families of the deceased. This includes the repatriation of the remains of the deceased, but that can only start after identification.”
He could not say how many South Africans were based in Afghanistan, nor if the victims had been male or female.
Condolences poured in for the dead on Facebook.
“You will be truly missed,” wrote a friend to one of the deceased. “May you have blue skies and tailwinds up above.”
“Having a few beers for you now and hope you’re cloud-surfing in the great pilot club above,” wrote another.
Local aviation forums buzzed.
“It illustrates the realities to which certain people are forced to resort to make a living in aviation,” wrote one user.
“Terribly, terribly sad,” said another. “I operated there for a year and THIS was always my greatest fear.”
Who are Hezb-e-Islami?
Described as militant insurgents, Hezb-e-Islami has its roots in the Soviet war in Afghanistan of the 1980s. It is headed by former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who received generous funding from anti-Soviet factions and Pakistan, especially.
But after years of feuding, the group fell out of favour with Pakistan, which turned its support to the Taliban.
In 1996, the Taliban took control of Kabul and held it until the US invasion in 2001. Hezb-e-Islami is believed to have ties with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
It has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks against President Hamid Karzai’s forces as well as foreign troops.
In 2004, a number of commanders within the group broke away to form a political party under the same name, though these leaders have declared their support for Karzai and claim to have laid down their arms.
What is Innocence of Muslims?
This anti-Islam film premiered in June at a rented movie theatre in Hollywood. It portrayed the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a child abuser and philanderer, and Muslims as violent killers.
Then, in July, two excerpts of the film were uploaded on YouTube…