Kabul airport bombing: Afghans start burying their dead

The family trudged up the hill to the tap-tap of a pickax digging out the grave where Mushtaq would be buried.

It had been just a day since a bomb ripped through the massive crowd gathered outside the Kabul airport in hopes of being evacuated. Mushtaq was among the dead.

“No more Afghanistan,” said his 28-year-old brother, Jamil, as the harsh midday sun beat down. “We can’t live here.”

He gazed across the dust-swept slopes of Martyrs Hill, where other, equally somber processions picked their way among the headstones to where more loved ones were to be laid to rest.

People dig a grave on a hillside.

Relatives dig a grave for Mushtaq, whose family didn’t want his full name used.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

More than 24 hours after the bombing, which was claimed by Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, the full measure of the slaughter was still unclear. As more of the injured succumbed to their wounds Friday, the death toll jumped from 90 Afghans to at least 169, in addition to 13 U.S. service personnel.

The magnitude of the carnage — the extremists had chosen the site for maximum damage — seemed a preview of Afghanistan’s violent future under the Taliban, despite the group’s insistence that it would bring stability and order to a country that hasn’t seen much of either in decades.

But most of all, it increased people’s determination to flee.

“All people like me, we want to leave from any border we can,” explained Jamil, who like all ordinary Afghans interviewed for this story said he feared the Taliban and spoke on the condition that his full name not be used.

The pickax continued its tap-tap.

People wait as others dig a grave with shovels.

Relatives took over an hour to dig Mushtaq’s grave by hand. The death toll in the Kabul airport blast rose to more than 150 Afghans, in addition to 13 U.S. service personnel.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)