PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Ali Ahmad was walking to his cousin’s home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sunday night when he saw something smash into the building and explode.
"They say it was a cruise missile," he said in an interview with Fox News from this provincial capital city on Wednesday. "What I know is that the missile came flying in, and there was suddenly a lot noise."
Ali said one of his cousins, Zahir, was killed in the explosion. A second cousin, Mohammed Reza, was seriously hurt. A group of about 15 other relatives who lived in the home escaped injury, according to Ali.
Ali said he and another relative, Zahir Ahmad, grabbed Mohammed — the brother of the man killed in the blast — put him in a car and headed for the hospital.
The problem: The hospital was hours away, on the other side of territory that was being bombed by U.S. warplanes, and across the closed Afghan-Pakistani border.
Speaking from outside their cousin’s hospital room at the Hyatabad Medical Center in Peshawar, where a number of injured Afghans have arrived in recent days, Ali and Zahir said they couldn’t recall many details of their harrowing journey. But they certainly remember the blast and its immediate aftermath.
"It was not like anything else I had ever heard," said Ali. "And we are used to these things happening in Afghanistan. We have been fighting here for 22 years."
Zahir Ahmad said he was in a car when he heard the blast, and was a bit farther away than Ali. Both men said the missile attack was accompanied by aerial bombardment, and lasted about 30 minutes. They could not say how many missiles or bombs hit the area.
Their unwelcome experience over more than two decades of off-and-on warfare has left the cousins feeling somewhat fatalistic about their country.
Neither seemed particularly upset at the United States for launching the raids that killed one of their relatives and injured a second, and both said they understood the Americans’ issues with the Taliban government.
They also seemed relieved about being in Pakistan, away from the devastation they have lived with for so long. They do not know when they will return.
They would like to remain safe and with their cousin, but they would also like to return to their families.
Zahir said his cousin’s house may have been hit because it was near what he called a Taliban police station not far away. He could not speculate how many troops were at the station or how big it was, but said at least two Taliban troops had been injured in the attacks.
"I know they were hurt and then they were gone. I don’t know what happened to them," he said.
As for Mohammed, he is in critical condition in a room in the hospital’s intensive care unit, where he was the only patient in a three-bed room on Wednesday afternoon.
The hospital expects to receive dozens more wounded in the coming days and weeks, officials said, from Afghans who risk crossing the borders for the safety and superior medical facilities offered in Pakistan.
Doctors also said Mohammed had a good chance at recovery, thanks to his relatives’ life-saving action.
"Of course I was shocked by what was going on when it hit," said Zahir. "But I had to get him to the hospital. I don’t know, I just got in the car — and went."