At least 25 people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in an attack on a military hospital in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday, local officials said, with gunfire and explosions echoing throughout the city in the afternoon.
The attack, which included gunmen and at least one suicide bomber, targeted the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in one of Kabul’s wealthiest neighborhoods, where both wounded soldiers who were fought for the old government and Taliban fighters.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack was carried out by several ISIS operatives, including a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives at the door of the hospital. A car full of explosives outside the hospital also exploded, injuring dozens of people, and several Taliban fighters were killed and wounded in the ensuing shootout, Mujahid said.
A doctor at the hospital, who declined to be named out of fear for his safety, said the gunmen entered a room filled with wounded Taliban fighters and shot them in their beds.
Another doctor who was hiding inside the hospital said he could still hear gunshots in the building early Tuesday afternoon. Another person inside said the attackers entered several floors and opened fire on anyone they saw, adding that some medics and nurses locked themselves in on the third floor.
While ISIS has yet to claim responsibility, there has been an increase in ISIS attacks across Afghanistan since the fall of the Western-backed government in August and the takeover. of the country by the Taliban. The terrorist group took advantage of the Taliban’s difficulty in securing urban centers.
A shopkeeper outside the hospital, who declined to be named, said the first explosions were 10 minutes apart and there were many people on the ground. He was injured in his back, he added.
This complex attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is probably the first of its kind the Taliban has faced: armed actors and a suicide bomber entering a large, overcrowded building filled with civilians. The West-backed government coped with such incidents by deploying commandos, which were almost always supported by NATO special operations forces.
The Taliban, known to have carried out such attacks for the past 20 years as insurgents, have little support or experience when it comes to dealing with such an event on their own.
Interior Ministry spokesman Qari Saeed Khosty confirmed on Twitter that there had been at least one explosion at the hospital and that Taliban forces were responding to the attack.
Islamic State suicide bombings in Kabul, Kunduz in the north of the country, and Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, have left at least 90 dead and hundreds injured in recent weeks.
In August, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed around 170 civilians and 13 US servicemen at the gates of Kabul International Airport.
The Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital has been attacked several times in recent years, both by the Islamic State and the Taliban.
Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Yaqoob Akbary from Kabul.