Officials and witnesses in the Afghan capital, Kabul, say gunmen, including at least one disguised as a doctor, have attacked the country’s largest military hospital.
Witnesses told reporters a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the 400-bed Sardar Daud Khan hospital in a central part of the capital early Wednesday,allowing several other assailants to enter the facility.
“I was getting ready to go to the operation theater where several patients were waiting for me when I heard a gunfire. I thought a colleague of mine is knocking at the door. I opened the door and saw a suicide bomber dressed as a doctor. He fired at me and I quickly hid under the stairs. He (the attacker) then fired on another staffer while moving in another direction,” a doctor on staff at the hospital told reporters.
Security officials said Afghan forces and counterterrorism units quickly reached the site. Local television reports said the sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard from within the building.
Witnesses said ambulances were transporting victims to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan civilian hospital. Health ministry officials in Kabul said at least two people were killed and 15 others wounded in the attack, but gave no details about the identities of the victims. They said the number of casualties could rise.
So far, there have been no claims of responsibility for the assault, but it comes as Taliban insurgents step up attacks before the start of their annual spring offensive.
Last week, more than a dozen people were killed in simultaneous attacks claimed by the Taliban on security compounds in Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, while addressing an event marking the international women’s day a few hundred meters away from the scene of the attack, condemned the violence as a criminal act and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
NATO’s Resolute support mission in Afghanistan said in a statement it stands ready to assist the country’s security forces.
“Once again insurgents show complete disrespect for humanity by attacking a hospital. We stand with the Afghan people against terrorism,” the coalition statement said.
Wednesday’s attack on the hospital comes two days after a new report warned the ongoing Afghan conflict and increased targeting of medical facilities and personnel by parties to the conflict have eroded the country’s already fragile health care system.
The non-governmental Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflicts, while releasing its report in New York earlier this week, said it documented more than 240 such attacks between 2015 and 2016 in at least 20 Afghan provinces. It blamed the Taliban and militants linked to Islamic State for a majority of the attacks.