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Coalition helps rebuild mosque hit by insurgent rocket

By Staff Sgt. Bradley Rhen

KHODIGI KALAY, Afghanistan (Army News Service, May 4, 2005) – The Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team is providing $22,000 to help repair a mosque and adjacent buildings damaged by rockets fired by insurgents.

PRT members attended an April 27 press conference at the mosque that marked the start of reconstruction on the buildings damaged in the terrorist attack.

Enemy fighters had fired rockets at Forward Operating Base Salerno March 22, from somewhere near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the rockets fell short of its intended target and instead hit near a mosque in the small village of Khodigi Kalay, just outside the southern perimeter of the base.

Although the rocket missed the mosque by about three feet, shrapnel from the rocket caused significant damage to the mosque’s façade, porch and a support pillar.

A second rocket from the same attack landed on the other side of a wadi damaging three village houses.

Speaking at the press conference, Maj. Carl Hollister, commander of the Khost PRT, said all the members of the PRT are happy to be a part of helping to refurbish and reconstruct the mosque.

“The carelessness for which al Qaeda acts against its brothers in Islam remains a mystery to those of us from the West,” he said. “In this town full of prideful Afghans, it is the friendship between the Coalition, the Afghan people and the provincial government that is focusing all our energies on this mosque to make it even better than it was before.”

Hollister said this project should be seen as yet another example that the Coalition is a friend of Islam, and is not here to destroy, as some say.

“I hope by our involvement in refurbishing this mosque you’ll see that our hearts are true, that we want to be your friends and we are not against Islam, we support Islam,” Hollister said.

Hollister told those in attendance that Afghanistan is their nation, and they need to take charge of it now.

“No more sanctuary to al Qaeda,” he said. “It’s time for them to admit defeat so that you can continue to raise your children in peace, and make a better future for all of you.”

Mullah Azharudin, director of the Hajj – the department that oversees all the mosques in Khost province – said it had been a while since he heard news like that of the mosque being hit by a rocket.

“In Afghanistan, the security was improved for the last one or two years, but once we heard that the mosque was hit by a rocket, we were very unhappy, we were very disappointed with whoever did this,” he said through an interpreter. “We were very much unhappy because we thought this was a place for worship, and al Qaeda and the Taliban were not supposed to hit it with a rocket.”

Azharudin said villagers were going to rebuild the mosque themselves, but they are very happy that the Coalition is going to help out. He said this is an example that the Coalition definitely isn’t in Afghanistan to destroy Islam.

“The Coalition forces are not anti-Islam because they are currently working in the mosque,” he said.

Azharudin said if the Coalition continues to work with the mullahs, he’s sure there will be fewer problems in Afghanistan.

(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Bradley Rhen serves with CTF Thunder Public Affairs.)




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