Over 30 killed in ISIS attack on Kabul hospital

Afghan special forces soldiers used helicopters to mount a counter-attack at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital from the roof. Some patients climbed out of the building and could be seen sheltering on window ledges. Away from Kabul, the country h
Afghan special forces soldiers used helicopters to mount a counter-attack at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital from the roof. Some patients climbed out of the building and could be seen sheltering on window ledges. Away from Kabul, the country had also been rocked by fighting over the past few days, with dozens of people killed.PHOTO: REUTERS

Suicide bomber blows himself up, 3 gunmen dress as doctors

KABUL • More than 30 people were killed and dozens more wounded in yesterday's attack on a military hospital in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, a Defence Ministry official said.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in which gunmen dressed as doctors slipped into the facility and battled security forces inside the building for several hours.

The attack began when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the rear of the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital and three attackers with automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the complex, security officials said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the attack was suppressed by mid-afternoon, with all three gunmen killed. As security forces swept the hospital buildings, another ministry spokesman said they found at least 30 dead and 50 wounded, including doctors, patients and hospital staff, in addition to the three killed and 66 wounded reported earlier. The gunmen, dressed as medical staff, had taken up positions on upper floors of the hospital and engaged special forces sent to the scene, officials added.

Security forces blocked off the area around the hospital, near a busy traffic intersection, and special forces soldiers descended on the main building's roof from helicopters.

President Ashraf Ghani said the attack "trampled on all human values". "In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan," he noted in impromptu remarks during a speech for International Women's Day in Kabul.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard for hours and, as fighting went on, there was a second explosion, which a spokesman said was caused when a car inside the hospital complex blew up.

A statement from ISIS' Amaq News Agency said its fighters had attacked the hospital. The group has mounted several high-profile attacks on civilian targets in Kabul over the past year, including several on prominent Shi'ite targets.

The raid on the hospital, across the road from the heavily fortified United States Embassy, underlines warnings by government officials that high-profile attacks in Kabul are likely to escalate this year.

President Ashraf Ghani said the attack "trampled on all human values". "In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan," he noted in impromptu remarks during a speech for International Women's Day in Kabul.

The Nato-led Resolute Support mission said it is ready to assist Afghan security services.

Mr Abdul Qadir, a worker at the hospital, told Reuters he saw one gunman dressed in a white doctor's coat take out a concealed AK-47 rifle and open fire, killing at least one patient and one hospital worker.

As the fighting went on, some patients climbed out of the building and could be seen sheltering on window ledges visible from outside the hospital, which treats military casualties from around Afghanistan.

The attack comes just a week after dozens of people were killed and wounded in coordinated attacks on a police station and an office of the intelligence service in Kabul. Those attacks were claimed by the Taleban who are seeking to expel foreign troops, defeat the US-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

Elsewhere, dozens of people have been killed over the past few days in fighting across Afghanistan, from Kunduz and Baghlan in the north to Farah in the south-west and Helmand and Kandahar on the Pakistan border in the south.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Over 30 killed in ISIS attack on Kabul hospital'. Print Edition | Subscribe