The Elimination of President Amin
The actual target of the attack was President Amin. After the return of Jahandad, nothing was heard of Amin. After overcoming the presidential guards, the invaders, accompanied by Gulabzoy and Sarwari, entered the palace. The medical team—including the old Russian physician and the head of the team, physician Wilayat Khan—was still attending to Amin. When the invaders entered the palace, they shot at random, but not as thoroughly as elsewhere. The Soviet physician was killed in the frenzy. So was the wife of Foreign Minister Shah Wali, who, along with her husband, was among the guests. The physician Wilayat Khan, speaking in the Ukrainian language, pleaded with the attackers from behind the Soviet nurses and was spared. Shah Wali was lucky to escape death; he, along with a number of others, had already been taken to the Four-Hundred-Bed-Hospital for treatment.
What happened to Amin is not known for sure. Sarwari and Gulabzoy have been quoted as saying that before they entered the palace Amin was already dead, killed either by soldiers under their command or by his own hand. This is not true. As guides accompanying the invading units, Sarwari and Gulabzoy had no soldiers under their command. That Amin did not kill himself is clear from a statement by Nikolai Berlev, a member of the attacking Alpha group. According to Berlev, “Dressed in an Adidas T-shirt and blue boxing shorts, Amin rushed out of the room with a gun in his hand, and was instantly shot dead.” Besides, according to Berlev, “Sarwari was frightened and completely broken, [but] when he was led upstairs and shown Amin’s dead body, he felt as if someone had attached wings to his back. He cheered up almost at once.” Yet Berlev’s account is also unreliable: Afghans do not wear T-shirts and boxing shorts in the winter. Besides, such outfits are not fashionable among Afghans, particularly among their rulers, who want to look dignified; Amin himself wore the loose national costume at home. Still more important, Amin and others, as already described, had been poisoned, and thus he was unable to “rush out of the room with a gun in his hand.” I am certain that the luncheon in the palace on that day had been poisoned. Of my many informants, one had consumed the luncheon and had been treated in the hospital. All this does not make clear how Amin was killed. According to one source, the invaders took Amin and a few others into the grounds, where they shot them dead. According to a number of other sources, Amin was seized alive and taken to the Soviet embassy in a black limousine guarded by two tanks. Whatever the truth, “When it was all over, Amin’s bullet-riddled body was displayed to the half-jubilant, half-petrified leaders of the new Soviet client state.”
While President Daoud lost eighteen members of his family in the coup, Amin lost only a few: himself and two of his eldest sons. He was survived by his wife, his youngest son, two daughters, and a grandson. His wife, perhaps by chance, had not eaten the poisoned food. On the eve of the communist coup, she helped Amin by safeguarding incriminating documents while their house was being searched by the police; in the present coup she managed to call for a medical team. She also opposed the transfer of the sick Amin to a Soviet medical center, as the Soviets, presumably through the old physician, had urged. “It appears the Soviets originally intended to incapacitate and kidnap Amin.”