Isa Khan Laghmani, 28, had little time to collect himself after a suicide car bomb near the Afghan parliament building caused the “loudest explosion” he had ever heard.
His ears ringing, it took the Afghan army staff sergeant several seconds to realize that the converted shipping container he and other soldiers were standing in was filled with dust and smoke. Knowing from experience that such a bombing in Afghanistan is often followed by militants on foot, the 10-year veteran grabbed his M-16 assault rifle and stepped outside, near the entrance to the parliament complex.
When he saw a group of young militants approaching, he hesitated for a second before opening fire.
“I said bismillah [in the name of God], and then: Bang! Bang! Bang!” he said in an interview Tuesday, a day after the bombing. “I shot all six.”
The soldier’s bravado made him a national sensation in Afghanistan in the wake of the latest Taliban assault on the parliament, in which two civilians were killed and 40 wounded. The morning after footage of him narrating his exploits to local media went viral Monday evening, young men hung posters with his picture around Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani gave him a three-bedroom house.