Attack on Kabul military hospital shines spotlight on Taliban 'security'

By Salaam Times and AFP

Taliban fighters patrol near the Sardar Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul on November 2, after an attack on the facility. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Taliban fighters patrol near the Sardar Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul on November 2, after an attack on the facility. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- At least 19 people were killed and 50 others wounded in an attack on a military hospital in Kabul on Tuesday (November 2), the latest assault to rock Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the entrance of the sprawling site, and then gunmen broke into the hospital grounds, firing their weapons there, the Taliban said.

"Nineteen dead bodies and about 50 wounded people have been taken to hospitals in Kabul," a Health Ministry official who asked not to be named told AFP.

The Taliban spent 20 years waging an insurgency against the Afghan government.

Now they face the struggle of bringing stability to Afghanistan, which has been hit in recent weeks by a series of bloody assaults claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) group's local chapter.

Tuesday's attack has not yet been claimed by any group.

"All the attackers are dead. The attack was initiated by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who blew himself up at the entrance of the hospital," a Taliban spokesperson said.

"Some attackers entered the hospital compound."

Two explosions targeted the hospital area, he had earlier said in a statement.

AFP staff in the city heard a second explosion some 30 minutes after the first was reported.

"I heard a big explosion coming from the first checkpoint. We were told to go to safe rooms. I also hear guns firing," a physician at Sardar Daud Khan hospital in Kabul told AFP during the attack.

"I can still hear guns firing inside the hospital building. I think the attackers are going from room to room... like the first time it was attacked," the doctor added.

2nd attack in 4 years

In March 2017, ISIS gunmen stormed the hospital, killing at least 30 patients and staff.

On that day, the terrorists used tactics similar to those seen on Tuesday. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the rear entrance. Gunmen disguised as medical personnel stormed the hospital after the explosion. Afghan forces ultimately killed them all.

Although both ISIS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they disagree on details of religion and strategy.

ISIS has claimed four mass casualty attacks since the Taliban takeover on August 15, including suicide bombings targeting Shia mosques.

In the 2017 attack on the military hospital, militants went room to room killing people, switching to knives when they ran out of ammunition.

That attack was claimed by ISIS, and the Taliban denied responsibility.

However, survivors told AFP that the attackers chanted "Long live the Taliban" in Pashtu and raided all but two wards on the hospital's first floor where Taliban patients were admitted.

Smoke and searches in the city

An Italian NGO which runs a separate hospital in Kabul tweeted on Tuesday that it has received nine patients with injuries from the blast site.

Pictures shared on social media showed black smoke billowing into the air after the explosions, the first of which went off at about 1pm.

AFP journalists saw Taliban fighters racing to the scene in two armoured personnel carriers and pick-up trucks.

Roads near the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where several former Western embassies stand were closed off to traffic and Taliban guards scaled up searches.

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