At least 25 people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in an attack on a military hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, according to local officials, with shots and explosions echoing throughout the city in the afternoon.
The attack, which included gunmen and at least one suicide bomber, was aimed at 400-bed military hospital Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan in one of Kabul’s more affluent neighborhoods, where both wounded soldiers fighting for the former government and Taliban fighters were treated.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the attack was carried out by several members of Islamic State, including a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives at the gate of the hospital. A car full of explosives outside the hospital also exploded and injured dozens, and several Taliban fighters were killed and wounded in the ensuing gun battle, Mr. Mujahid.
A doctor at the hospital, who refused to be named for fear of his safety, said the gunmen had entered a ward 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 had gone into several floors and opened fire on everyone they saw, adding that some doctors and nurses had locked themselves on the third floor.
Although Islamic State has not yet claimed responsibility, there has been an increase in Islamic State attacks throughout Afghanistan since the fall of the Western-backed government in August and the Taliban’s takeover of the country. The terrorist group has taken advantage of the Taliban’s difficulties in securing city centers.
A store owner outside the hospital, who declined to be named, said the first explosions had been 10 minutes apart and that there were a lot of people on the ground. He was injured in the back, he added.
This complex attack on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is probably the first of its kind that the Taliban is struggling with: armed actors and a suicide bomber who infiltrates a large, crowded building full of civilians. The Western-backed government dealt with such incidents by deploying commandos, which were almost always supported by NATO Special Forces.
The Taliban, which is known for carrying out these types of attacks over the last 20 years as insurgents, has little support or experience when it comes to dealing with such an event on its 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 bombers in Kabul, the northern city of Kunduz and in Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, have killed at least 90 people and injured hundreds over the past many weeks.
In August, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. officials at the gate of Kabul International Airport.
Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Military Hospital has been attacked repeatedly in recent years by both Islamic State and the Taliban.
Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan and Yaqoob Akbary from Kabul.