By Jackson Lienhart
On Wednesday, March 8th, an attack on an Afghani military hospital in Kabul was conducted by gunmen disguised as medical staff. One of the gunmen was a suicide bomber that detonated his explosive vest upon entering the hospital. The infamous Islamic State group claimed the attack as their own through their news agency, Amaq. Over 30 victims of the attack have been pronounced dead, while at least 50 others were injured and have been transported to other local hospitals nearby.
The Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan hospital is the nation’s largest and most heavily equipped medical facility. Among the victims were recovering Afghani military personnel, doctors, and hospital employees. The attack lasted approximately six hours, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending around 3:30 p.m. local time (11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET). The attack began with an explosion occurring at one of the rear entrances to the hospital. The explosive was detonated by a suicide bomber on foot. Several disguised gunmen armed with assault rifles then gained entry to the building and proceeded to open fire. After reports of the explosion, Afghani troops stormed the scene to end the attack and rescue those inside. Helicopters circled over the building dropping off additional troops and attempting to save potential victims.
Multiple survivors depicted the horrific events that occurred inside of the hospital. Fazel Mohammed, a member of the hospital’s neurology department claimed that he and others barricaded themselves in a room for three hours before being rescued. Mr. Mohammed stated “They hit one of our colleagues with a bullet in the chest, and they fired at a girl who was a relative of a patient. Then they shot at a cleaner and then another guy,” after he allegedly heard gunshots in the corridor of the fifth floor, and witnessed the gunmen shortly after. Dr. Akramuddin Kakar said, “We understand that on the second, third, fourth, and fifth floors, casualties were very high, because everywhere was full of blood.” Dr. Kakar continued his statement by mentioning, “The attackers killed whoever they saw in the main building of the hospital.”
Several credible sources released condemnations on the attack. The United Nations interim humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Adele Khodr, stated “On behalf of the U.N, humanitarian agencies, I strongly emphasize that medical facilities, personnel and those receiving treatment must never be placed at risk and under no circumstances be subject to attack.” Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hambdullah Mohib, released a statement in which he pronounced, “These are forces of evil the world must work together to defeat.” He specified that “this attack marks an abhorrent new low—dressing in disguise to shoot at the sick and wounded is a cowardly, wicked act.” Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani weighed in by saying the attack proves that terrorists “don’t follow rules and laws.” The U.S. Embassy, located nearby the hospital where these events took place, released a statement that stated “The U.S. Embassy strongly condemns today’s deadly attack on Afghan National Army Hospital in Kabul. The attack demonstrates the blatant disregard for human life by those seeking to disrupt Afghanistan’s democratic progress,” and continued by giving their condolences to all those victimized in the attack. This attack is not the first on medical facilities in Afghanistan, and unfortunately is not likely to be the last. It has been reported by the nongovernmental organization Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict that approximately 240 attacks against health facilities or medical personnel occurred from January 2015 to December 2016. This attack is one of many that have been conducted by the Islamic State group, and surely one of the most ruthless to date.