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Gunmen dressed as doctors kill dozens at Kabul military hospital

Afghans react after an attack on a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

RAHMAT GUL/AP

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 8, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gunmen dressed as doctors stormed Afghanistan’s largest military hospital on Wednesday, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens more, officials and witnesses said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Sardar Dawood Khan hospital, which is located near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul’s diplomatic area.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri said a suicide bomber blew himself up at the southern gate of the facility, after which a small group of attackers dressed in hospital uniforms entered with guns and began shooting.

“Our forces landed on the roof of the hospital from helicopters and were bravely fighting the enemies,” Waziri said.

 Clashes between the militants and security forces were still underway hours later. As the fighting dragged on, a second explosion was heard from within the building.

By late afternoon, more than 30 people — including soldiers, doctors and civilians — had been killed, in addition to all four gunmen, Waziri said.

Ismail Kawoosi, a Health Ministry spokesman, said 66 injured people were rushed to two other nearby hospitals for treatment, some of whom were in critical condition.

“I was going to visit the children’s hospital, which is across from Sardar Dawood Khan hospital, when suddenly I heard a blast and shooting started,” said Said Sardarwali, a Kabul resident. He said the attackers were wearing white doctors’ gowns. The NATO-led international military coalition said on Twitter: “Once again insurgents show complete disrespect for humanity by attacking a hospital. We stand ready to assist Afghan security services.”

The attack came one week after a pair of Taliban suicide bombings targeted Afghan security forces in Kabul, killing at least 16 people.

U.S. troops have been helping the Afghans battle Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan since early last year.

U.S. and Afghan forces describe their fight against the militants as a success, saying they’ve reduced numbers from between 2,000 and 3,000 a year ago to some 700 today.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a peaceful demonstration in Kabul in July that killed more than 80 people in one of the deadliest bombings in the country in years. Just last month, the group said it was behind an attack on Afghanistan’s Supreme Court that left over 20 people dead.

The string of recent attacks in Kabul follows warnings by local officials that the capital could see an uptick in violence this year from emboldened Taliban insurgents as well as militant groups like Islamic State.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @PhillipWellman
 

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