9. Telegram From the Embassy in Afghanistan to the Department of State1

3300. Subject: Daoud’s Last Hours.

1. According to what appears to be a reliable eyewitness (one of the only two survivors of the horror scene described), President Daoud, his brother Mohammad Naim, and approximately 29 other persons, including Daoud’s three sons, their wives and some of his grandchildren, were executed in their house within the palace grounds on the morning of April 28. (We presume that the wives of Daoud and Naim were also in the group.) According to this report Daoud was repeatedly urged to swear loyalty to the National Military Revolutionary Council (NMRC), but he refused.

2. To exert maximum pressure on Daoud the coup forces made him and Naim witness the execution of their families by submachine guns at about 0400 or 0430 on the morning of Friday, April 28 (the report did not contain information on exactly when Daoud and his family had actually fallen into the insurgents’ hands). At 0800, a military officer arrived and made a last offer to Daoud and Naim, but the former President still refused. He and his brother were then summarily executed by submachine gun fire.

3. According to a separate report from a Canadian doctor, Daoud’s wife, Bilqis (who was also the sister of exiled King Zahir Shah) was brought into Jamhuriat Hospital during the night of April 27. She had massive chest and abdominal gunshot wounds, and passed away shortly after admission. Two of Daoud’s grandchildren are still being treated in the orthopedic ward for gunshot wounds.

4. The first report contains an additional enigmatic detail: during the final confrontation with Daoud at 0800, a “diplomatic car,” a phrase which most Afghans would interpret as “belonging to a foreign Embassy”, was standing outside the Daoud residence. We have received several reports—all unverified as yet—of Soviet personnel being sighted with coup officers.

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5. Comment: This version of Daoud’s death tracks with the new regime’s subsequent formal announcement that the former leader had to be killed because he would not submit to the authority of the NMRC. The bloody details, however, will probably never be officially acknowledged. If this story is true—and we have no reason to doubt it considering the nature of this violent society—we are provided with a vivid illustration of how venomous was the hatred of the coup leaders against the “Nadir Shah” Yahya Khel clan of Mohammadzai family. Also, this is the stubborn way we would have expected Daoud to resist to the end.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Daily CIA Brief File, Box 2, 4/28/78–5/5/78. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information Priority to CINCPAC for POLAD, Islamabad, Moscow, New Delhi, Rome, and Tehran. Printed from a copy received in the White House Situation Room on May 1. Carter initialed “C” in the upper right corner of the telegram.