Graan carries his assault rifle everywhere, even to the event organised by staff of the Afghan Telecom Regulatory Authority in Kabul to honour him and his colleagues for defending them from an ISIS attack.

In fact, the 32-year-old member of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces was the only one of the 12 Afghan soldiers who walked into the corporate meeting room in full combat gear.

Graan, and his NDS colleagues Shoaib and Arif, both 36, have become heroes to the nearly 3,000 people they helped to protect during an attack on the compound housing the Afghan communications and IT ministry, Afghan Post and the ATRA on the afternoon of April 20. All three men asked The National that only their first names be used to protect their identity.

Five civilians and two members of the security forces were killed in the attack claimed by ISIS. A car bomb detonated at the front gates of the compound before three heavily armed entered. Besides rifles, handguns and ammunition, each was carrying a large dagger which officials believed were to be used for executions.

While Shoaib, Graan and Arif fought off the insurgents from inside the compound, members of the Afghan police’s Crisis Response Unit engaged them from the outside. All three militants were killed after a gunbattle lasting more than four hours.

“I was at the front when the explosion happened. At first I thought it was a tyre bursting, but seconds later I saw smoke and I instantly knew that something wasn’t right,” said Shoaib, describing how the attack unfolded to a rapt audience of ATRA employees in the meeting room.

“I grabbed my rifle and moved closer to the gate. My first reaction was to block the entry to the ministry building.”

“My biggest concern was to defend my post, and not allow the insurgents to get past me,” said Graan. “I said a prayer to give me the strength and I was prepared to die, but I wanted stay alive long enough to ensure that the terrorists didn’t enter the building.”

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