Gunmen disguised as doctors assault Kabul hospital, leaving 30 dead - washingtonpost
Gunmen disguised as doctors and medics drove an ambulance into Kabul’s main military hospital Wednesday morning, then opened fire on patients and staff members and battled Afghan security forces for hours. At least 30 people, most of them civilians, were killed and twice as many wounded, officials said.
The audacious midmorning attack, the deadliest in the Afghan capital in months, was claimed by the Islamic State extremist militia. It drew immediate condemnation from foreign governments and humanitarian groups, and was denounced as an “atrocity” by the U.N. mission here because it targeted a medical facility.
“This attack marks an abhorrent new low. Dressing in disguise to shoot at the sick and wounded is a cowardly, wicked act,” Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador in Washington, said in a statement. “These are forces of evil the world must work together to defeat.”
It also highlighted the threat of terrorist violence that continues to plague even the most secure areas of the Afghan capital, as well as other regions, after 16 years of conflict with Taliban insurgents and other armed groups that has cost tens of thousands of lives and involved more than 100,000 American troops at its peak.
As the Trump administration weighs its policy options here, experts have warned that 2017 is likely to be as grueling and deadly as 2016, which had a record number of civilian casualties and left Taliban forces in control of more than one-third of the country. The increasing threat from the Islamic State, known here as Daesh, is especially worrisome.
The assault Wednesday began when a vehicle bomb detonated outside the front gates of the Sardar Daud Khan medical complex, a large and heavily guarded compound that is near the U.S. and European embassies, the headquarters of the U.S.-led military coalition, and Afghan government buildings in central Kabul.
Almost immediately afterward, witnesses and officials said, gunmen already inside the hospital, wearing white medical coats, pulled out concealed assault rifles and began shooting. At least four attackers were involved, some of whom took cover on the second floor. Grenade explosions were also heard inside the compound.
“Suddenly gunfire broke out and a gunman was shooting at everyone, he was shooting at doctors, patients and visitors,” a witness identified as Zahir Khan told news agencies. He said he had hidden under a table in the hospital and later escaped. Some patients and staff members were seen climbing out hospital windows and crouching on ledges.
A security official said late Wednesday that the gunmen sneaked inside by using an ambulance to pretend to bring patients for treatment. The hospital treats sick and wounded Afghan military personnel and their families. Officials said that doctors and patients were among the casualties and that more than 66 wounded victims were taken to two civilian hospitals.- Read More