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Gunmen Disguised As Doctors Mount Hours-Long Assault On Kabul Hospital

Two Afghan men weep for their relatives in front of the main gate of a Kabul military hospital Wednesday, after a deadly six-hour attack claimed by the Islamic State.
Shah Marai
AFP/Getty Images
Two Afghan men weep for their relatives in front of the main gate of a Kabul military hospital Wednesday, after a deadly six-hour attack claimed by the Islamic State.

Gunmen dressed as medical staff stormed a military hospital in Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 30 people and injuring dozens more in a raid that lasted hours. In a statement published on the Islamic State-affiliated Aamaq news agency, the militant group claimed responsibility for the assault in the Afghan capital.

The attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital ended midafternoon local time, after several hours of floor-by-floor clashes with Afghan security forces left all four attackers dead, according to Gen. Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan defense ministry spokesman.

"While we work for peace, we'll avenge the blood of our people," tweeted Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the assault "trampled all human values," the BBC reports, noting that Ghani added: "In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan."

Citing the country's military officials, The Washington Post reports the attack opened midmorning with the detonation of a suicide bomb at the 400-bed hospital's front gates. Witnesses describe gunmen wearing white doctors' coats, which hid the assault rifles and grenades they broke out to target the staff and patients.

"Late into the afternoon, government forces were still locked in sporadic exchanges of fire inside the hospital," the Post reports. "Television footage showed one Afghan military helicopter landing on the roof of the main compound and dropping reinforcements."

By the time security forces regained control, The Guardian reports that witnesses had already heard a second explosion rip through the hospital compound.

The Afghan Taliban denied any involvement in the attack.

As the BBC explains, this is by no means the only attack to rack the capital city recently:

"In July 2016, a suicide bomb attack on a rally in Kabul killed about 80 people.

"Three months later, two similar attacks during the religious festival of Ashura claimed about 30 lives and in November 2016 an attack at a mosque in Kabul killed more than 30.

"IS also claimed a suicide attack at Kabul's Supreme Court last month that killed 22 people and has stepped up activity in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The Taliban has also been carrying out attacks, killing 16 people in Kabul in suicide attacks a week ago, after beginning its Spring offensive early."

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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