Joe McDowell describes being caught up in Afghanistan shooting attack as he returns to Australia – ABC News

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A West Australian man injured in a deadly shooting in central Afghanistan has recounted the moment he thought he was going to die after coming face to face with a suspected ISIS gunman.

Joe McDowell was shot when a gunman opened fire on his tour group at a market in the city of Bamyan, around 180 kilometres west of capital Kabul, on Friday.

Six people, including three foreigners, were killed, and at least five others including Mr McDowell were injured.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the shooting and the Taliban said seven suspects had been arrested.

The attack was the most serious targeting foreign citizens since the Taliban took over in 2021.

Mr McDowell is expected to arrive back in Perth on Friday evening after recovering at a hospital in Kabul.

Before boarding his flight, he spoke to ABC Radio Perth about how he was caught up in the incident.

‘I heard this ‘bang, bang, bang”

Mr McDowell said his tour group had stopped at a market to have passport photos taken for their planned visit to a national park, and as they were getting back in their vehicle, a gunman opened fire.

A close up photo of a man smiling for a camera

Mr McDowell says he initially thought the gunshots were “fireworks or crackers”.(AAP)

“I was in the front passenger seat and turned around to talk to the other people and I heard this ‘bang, bang, bang’ and I didn’t register what it was, he said.

“I thought it was fireworks or crackers or something like that.”


He said the man was firing into a shop the group had just been in, but then turned his gun onto their vehicle.

“He swung around to point at us and that’s when all five people in the car at the same time sort of realised what was happening,” he said.

“We all ducked down below the windows and bullets started coming.

“I just felt like I was a little bit trapped … so I made the call to chuck the door open and run.”

Car and alleyway used for shelter

Mr McDowell said that was when he felt a “slap on the arse,” not realising he had just been shot.

“That sort of what made me stop and turn around and then I realised he was shooting towards right at me,” he said.

“At the time, there was no fear, you just didn’t have time. I didn’t have fear, didn’t have pain.

“All I had was adrenaline, it was sort of this survival, sort of running on instinct.”

A man standing in front of a temple

Mr McDowell says he dropped to the ground and rolled under the car, leaving him right next to the gunman’s feet.(AAP)

The Perth man said he did not have a plan in mind when he decided to drop to the ground and roll under a car.

“[It] put me in a bit of a vulnerable position because a couple of seconds later I could see his feet standing beside the vehicle, probably about a metre away from my head,” he said.

“That’s when I thought, ‘this is it’.”

Watching the gunman’s feet, Mr McDowell said he saw him walk around the car and took the opportunity to “wriggle out” and flee to an alleyway where he waited until the shooting stopped.

He then emerged to find several people dead.

‘I don’t know why I didn’t die’

Mr McDowell said he was still trying to comprehend how he had survived.

“I just don’t know why I didn’t die,” he said.

“Because he knew where I was, he saw me drop under the car and he was standing right there … I don’t know what stopped him from just finishing what he started, but something distracted him.”

People standing around with cars on the side of a road and small plastic chairs on the ground

The attack happened in the city of Bamyan in Afghanistan.(Supplied: Besmillah Taban/X)

Spain’s government on Friday announced that three of the dead were Spanish tourists.

The dead also included three Afghans — two civilians and a Taliban member, the Taliban interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said.

Local officials said the civilians were working with the tour group, while the Taliban security official had returned fire when the shooting broke out.

Tourist downplays travel risk

Mr McDowell acknowledged there was a risk of travelling to Afghanistan but said he didn’t believe the country to be “massively dangerous.”

“Obviously it’s just come out of war [and] the Taliban I think have a bad reputation … so it’s a dangerous place but for the last three years, it hasn’t been like that,” he said.

“People are fearful of what they don’t know.”

Multiple foreign tourism companies offer package tours to Afghanistan, often including visits to highlights in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamyan.

Bamyan is Afghanistan’s top tourist destination, once home to the giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001 during their previous rule.

The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power, and deadly attacks on foreigners are rare.

The Australian government’s current travel advice for Afghanistan is “do not travel”.


Posted 57m ago57 minutes agoFri 24 May 2024 at 2:34am, updated 23m ago23 minutes agoFri 24 May 2024 at 3:08am

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