Joe McDowell: Perth engineer shot in Afghanistan tells of incredible tale of survival

Aaron BunchAAP
Joe McDowell was injured in a deadly shooting in central Afghanistan that killed six people.
Camera IconJoe McDowell was injured in a deadly shooting in central Afghanistan that killed six people. Credit: AAP

An Australian adventure tourist targeted in a deadly shooting in central Afghanistan thought he would die after coming face to face with an ISIS gunman.

Joe McDowell, 38, was shot when the lone gunman opened fire on his tour group in Bamyan, about 200km west of the capital Kabul, last Friday, killing six people.

Three Spanish travellers and three Afghans were killed and five others, including Mr McDowell, were severely injured.

The Daesh/ISIS group has reportedly claimed responsibility.

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Mr McDowell said he was chatting with his travelling companions in a van in a shopping district when the gunman opened fire.

“It was rapid like ‘bang, bang, bang, bang’ ... like firecrackers,” he told AAP on Thursday.

The Perth engineer said the man, who was armed with an AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, fired into a shop that some of the group was in before turning on the van.

“Bullets started coming through the windscreen ... We were fish in a barrel,” he said.

“I flung the door open and ran ... Then I felt a slap on the arse.”

Mr McDowell had been shot in the right buttock from close range as he attempted to escape the hail of bullets but didn’t realise.

“I spun around and he was looking at me, pointing the gun,” he said.

The avid hockey player dropped to the ground and rolled under a car, fearing for his life.

Joe McDowell in Afghanistan
Camera IconJoe McDowell was injured in a shooting in Afghanistan. Credit: AAP

“He came and stood beside the car ... and I thought this is where he’s going to squat down and shoot under the car,” Mr McDowell said.

“That was the moment I thought ‘I might die here’.

“I wasn’t scared. It all happened too quickly. I had too much adrenaline.”

The gunman continued firing indiscriminately. Three of Mr McDowell’s tour group who were trapped in the van suffered serious gunshot wounds.

Watching the gunman’s feet, Mr McDowell saw him turn and take a few steps away from the car, allowing him time to “wriggle out” and run to safety down an adjoining alleyway.

After the shooting stopped, Mr McDowell walked back to the van and shops where he found a gruesome scene and the bodies of two of the three dead tourists from his group.

“I tried not to step in the blood,” he said.

“We’d only known each other for a couple of days, but when you’re in that sort of environment you become mates quickly.

“It’s just so senseless.”

Mr McDowell and the other survivors were rushed to a local hospital for emergency medical treatment before being transferred to a Kabul hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove bullet fragments from his buttock.

“It hit my arse cheek and burst and left a heap of shrapnel,” he said.

He has since been able to fly out of Afghanistan with his fellow travellers and is expected to return to Australia in the coming days.

Mr McDowell said he had no doubt the gunman, who fled the scene, was targeting tourists.

The Arab News website reported on Sunday that the Daesh/ISIS group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Multiple foreign tourism companies offer package tours to Afghanistan, often visiting cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamyan.

Bamyan is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the remains of two giant Buddha statues the Taliban blew up during their previous rule of Afghanistan in 2001.

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