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‘Devastated’ Nepalese receive the bodies of Kabul victims

KATHMANDU: Nepalese relatives of 12 victims of a suicide bomb attack react as they pay their last respects alongside the coffins of those killed. - AFP
KATHMANDU: Nepalese relatives of 12 victims of a suicide bomb attack react as they pay their last respects alongside the coffins of those killed. – AFP

KATHMANDU: Dozens of people, many in tears, thronged Kathmandu’s airport yesterday to receive the bodies of 12 Nepali guards killed in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul this week. The victims were among 14 security guards who were killed Monday in a Taliban suicide blast targeting their bus as they headed to work at the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

Afghan authorities had earlier said that all 14 were Nepali nationals, before Kathmandu clarified that 12 of the victims belonged to Nepal. Relatives and friends broke down in tears as they approached the pink-and-white coffins, tagged with the names of the dead. “Our family is devastated,” said Sarajan Adhikari, whose brother-in-law Madhusudhan Koirala was killed in the attack.

The 45-year-old’s death was the latest tragedy to hit the family. The guard lost two children in last year’s massive earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people in the Himalayan nation. “(My sister) had told him not to go (back) the last time he came home. It was only the compulsion to earn that made him return,” Adhikari told AFP.

Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli offered a floral tribute to the victims as he attempted to console distraught family members, many of whom had camped out for hours at the airport. “The whole country is mourning the death of innocent Nepalese killed in this cowardly attack,” Oli told reporters after placing marigold garlands on each coffin.

The aircraft, chartered by the Nepal government, also brought back 24 other Nepalese who worked as guards for Sabre International, the same company that employed the victims. “It could have been me,” said former Nepal army soldier Shyam Bahadur Tamang, 47, who began working in Afghanistan in 2014. “There is no security for us… there are many other Nepalese who are eager to quit and return home,” Tamang told AFP.

Authorities said around 3,300 Nepalese were currently working in Afghanistan as security guards but accurate figures for the total number employed across the world are hard to come by. Impoverished Nepal has long served as a supplier of security forces to the world. A number of them are former soldiers with the Gurkha brigades of the Indian and British army’s while others are retired Nepal army or police personnel. Four Nepali guards were killed in a 2011 attack on a UN compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 2011. – AFP

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