At a funeral ceremony of four young men in Afghanistan‘s Jalalabad city, Siffatullah said his hands were trembling when he buried the dead.
“I met them on the day they were killed. I was with them three hours before the incident,” he said.
Siffatullah is the uncle of the four brothers, who were killed in a raid on Wednesday night by the CIA-trained and funded 02 Unit of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency.
Abdul Qadir Siddiq, 30, Abdul Qadeer Bahar, 28, Jehanzib Omar Zakhilwal 26 and Saboor Zakhilwal, 24, were beaten and later shot dead in their house by the strike force, friends and family have told Al Jazeera.
The 02 Unit said in a statement that a financier of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group along with his three allies were killed in the operation, but officials later backtracked following public outrage.
People who knew the brothers rejected the claim as well saying the brothers had no links to the armed group. They added that two of the brothers worked for the government while the other two ran their own businesses.
“They were kind and humble people, anyone who knew them loved the boys. They were very social as well. They cared for people and also had a good sense of humour,” Naqeeb Sakhizada, who owns a shop in the area of the incident and knew the brothers for more than 10 years, told Al Jazeera.
“Every gathering they went to, they used to make everyone laugh and happy with their jokes. How can they have any links to Daesh [ISIL]? It is a lie. We are all in shock and have lost faith in the government and security forces once again.”
Hamayun Umar, who was friends with Saboor – one of the brothers – said he could not believe his friend was dead and linked to ISIL.
“Saboor was my best friend. I [have known] him [for] six to seven years. We studied in the same university. I was the captain of our university’s cricket team and he was in my team. He was a fast bowler and a very talented player,” he said.
“When I heard the news, I felt like I have no heart or soul in my body. I could not work or go to university. I could not eat for almost 24 hours.”
‘Zero tolerance for civilian casualties’
Former finance minister and ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, said the killing amounted to “war crimes”.
“I was told by the survivors that their house was raided at around 10:00pm last night by 02 Unit… They were all handcuffed, interrogated inside their house then their father and two sons taken away while the four remaining brothers – two of whom were worked for government,” Zakhilwal tweeted.
Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the director of the NDS, resigned after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there has “zero tolerance for civilian casualties”.
“I have regretfully accepted the resignation of NDS chief, Mr. Stanikzai who had had success in other areas of his work,” he tweeted.
Ghani has announced an investigation to “bring the perpetrators to justice”.
Afghan security forces have come under frequent criticism for their tactics while conducting nighttime raids that have resulted in heavy civilian casualties.
The United Nations noted a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and NATO-led troops in the first half of 2019, with at least 3,812 civilians killed or wounded.
At the funeral, Nangarhar’s Governor Shah Mahmood Miakhel assured the family that an investigation will be carried out into the incident.
“We promise we are with you and we will investigate and bring those who’ve done wrong to justice,” he said in his speech at the funeral.
But Siffatullah said nothing can bring back his nephews. He said he cannot forget the images of his nephews covered in blood.
“Jehanzib was stabbed in his chest and then shot in the eye that took his brains out. Qadar was shot three times and Saboor was shot under his ear on his head.”
“Now the governor is saying he will do an investigation into the incident, but I don’t think justice will be served. I don’t trust them and never will after this tragedy.”