Isis militants disguised as doctors kill 38 in Kabul hospital attack

Gunmen dressed as medics fought security forces for hours in assault on military hospital in Afghan capital


Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Kabul military hospital by gunmen disguised as doctors who entered the facility and battled security forces for hours.

At least 38 people died and dozens more were injured, the hospital said.

The attack began with a suicide bombing at the rear of the hospital complex in the Afghan capital. Officials said at least three gunmen dressed as medical staff then entered the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan facility and took up positions on the upper floors.

A second explosion was heard as Afghan special forces engaged the gunmen and “heavy fighting” ensued, a defence ministry spokesman said. An earlier death toll of three was revised upwards after security forces carried out checks in the aftermath of the fighting.

Isis’s Afghan wing has claimed responsibility, according to a report by the Isis-affiliated Amaq news agency. A November suicide attack on a crowded mosque, claimed by the same group, killed more than 30 people and wounded dozens.

Isis was also accused by local officials of killing six Red Cross employees in an ambush on a convoy in northern Afghanistan last month. It has claimed at least two other attacks on minority Shias in Kabul since last July.

An unverified photo released by Isis purporting to show one of the Kabul hospital attackers
An unverified photo released by Isis purporting to show one of the Kabul hospital attackers. Photograph: Amaq

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, said the latest attack “trampled on all human values”. “In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan,” he said, during an address in Kabul for International Women’s Day.

Abdul Qadir, a hospital employee, told Reuters he saw a gunman dressed in a white doctor’s coat take out an AK-47 assault rifle and open fire, killing at least one patient and a hospital worker.

Reuters reported that patients could be seen climbing out of the building and sheltering on window ledges outside the hospital, across the road from the heavily fortified US embassy.

Isis has been active in Afghanistan since 2014 but maintains a far smaller presence – and poses far less of an existential threat to the Afghan state – than the Taliban, who continue to be responsible for the majority of violence in the country.

Hundreds of US airstrikes in the past year have helped to limit the group’s influence to a handful of districts in and around the eastern Nangarhar province, though Wednesday’s attack showed it continues to have the ability to strike outside those areas.

Gen John Nicholson, the most senior US commander in Afghanistan, has claimed American efforts have killed about one-third of Isis’s fighters and shrunk its territory by two-thirds.

The Afghan affiliate’s leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in a US drone strike in August.

The group’s support among local people has also been limited by its trademark brutality and imposition of a blinkered vision of Islam – including bans on smoking and poppy cultivation and the annulment of government-officiated weddings – in spite of local customs.

Analysts have put the number of Isis fighters in Afghanistan at up to 2,000, though a close assessment is difficult to establish because of the uncertain toll of casualties and success of recruitment drives.

The Taliban claimed an attack last week on a police station and intelligence service office in the capital that killed and wounded dozens.

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About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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