At least 30 people have been killed and more than 50 others wounded in a six-hour gun and bomb attack on a military hospital in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
Defense ministry officials said the incident occurred when three attackers entered the hospital on Wednesday morning [09:00 local time (04:30 GMT)] after their co-fighters detonated his explosive belt at the front gate of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital complex in the Wazir Akbar Khan area, central Kabul on Wednesday (March 8).
General Dawlat Waziri, a defense ministry spokesman, says there were “more than 30 killed and more than 50 wounded” in the attack.
He added that at least three militants dressed in white lab coats (medical uniforms) and armed with guns and grenades gained entry after one militant detonated explosives at an entrance gate and then they began spraying bullets on patients and hospital staff. Following an explosion, the gunmen holed themselves up on the upper floors of the 400-bed military hospital and engaged special forces units sent to the scene, officials said.
The Commando Forces and Crisis Response Unit (CRU) arrived at the scene of the attack shortly after and started a clearance operation, security sources said. Sources from the Ministry of Public Health said the majority of the wounded were hospital staff members. The attack ended at around 4pm Kabul time after the three attackers were gunned down by security forces.
Waziri said a suicide bomber had detonated his payload and another attacker was shot dead, and that one member of the security forces was killed and three wounded. Afghan helicopters circled over the area, which was surrounded by security forces.
A Taliban spokesman told media outlets that the militant group did not know anything about the attack and was not responsible for the attack. “Today’s Kabul attack has no connection” with the Taliban, the spokesman said separately in a tweet.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group’s Afghan wing has later claimed responsibility for the assault on the Sardar Daud Khan hospital, according to a report by the Isis-affiliated Amaq news agency. It said, “Islamic State commandos attack the military hospital in Kabul.” A November suicide attack on a crowded mosque, claimed by the same group, killed more than 30 people and wounded dozens.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack.
“There is an ongoing terrorist attack in a hospital which tramples all human values”. “In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan,” Ghani said, during an address in Kabul for International Women’s Day.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also condemned the Wednesday’s attack.
“I condemn the terrorist attacked on hospital in Kabul,” he tweeted. “While we work for peace, we’ll avenge the blood of our people.”
— Dr. Abdullah (@afgexecutive) March 8, 2017
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it “strongly condemns the attack and offered its condolences to relatives of the victims.
“The attack demonstrates the blatant disregard for human life by those seeking to disrupt Afghanistan’s democratic progress,” the embassy said on its website. “Targeting a medical facility providing care for the brave Afghans working to protect their fellow citizens has no possible justification in any religion or creed.”
— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) March 8, 2017
Afghan security forces have struggled to combat both groups (the Taliban and ISIS) since the U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in December 2014, switching to an advisory and counter-terrorism role.