ISIS claims Kabul hospital attack after Taleban denies involvement

KABUL • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed a spectacular assault on Afghanistan's largest military hospital that bore the hallmarks of the Taleban, prompting officials to voice misgivings as ISIS' nascent presence in the country dwindles.

ISIS claimed via its propaganda agency Amaq that its fighters dressed as doctors stormed the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul on Wednesday hours after the Taleban denied responsibility. Officials, however, cast doubt that the attack was the handiwork of ISIS.

The gun-and-grenade attack, which lasted six hours, rattled Kabul's diplomatic district. The brutality of the assault was characterised by how the assailants began stabbing victims with knives once they ran out of bullets, Defence Ministry officials said.

"The attack had the hallmarks of the more dominant Taleban, which has repeatedly carried out such spectacular coordinated attacks on government targets," Mr Atiqullah Amarkhail, a Kabul-based security analyst, said.

"This shows that when the Taleban or Haqqanis are not willing to take responsibility for an attack, the opportunistic ISIS will come forward to contradict claims that they have been badly weakened."

But Mr Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani expert on militant movements, cautioned against dismissing ISIS entirely. "It's important to remember that despite their losses, ISIS still has determined fighters," he said. "We cannot rule them out as a threat."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS claims Kabul hospital attack after Taleban denies involvement'. Print Edition | Subscribe