At least 19 people were killed and 50 were injured when a Kabul hospital was attacked on Tuesday, a health ministry official said, after the Taliban confirmed two blasts and a witness reported gunfire.
“Nineteen dead bodies and about 50 wounded people have been taken to hospitals in Kabul,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
The explosions were the latest in a string of attacks in the weeks since the Taliban seized power in August, following a two-decade insurgency against the US-backed government.
The hardline Islamist group’s struggle to bring stability to Afghanistan has been dogged by a series of bloody assaults by the Islamic State group’s local chapter. Tuesday’s attack has not yet been claimed by any group.
“I am inside the hospital. I heard a big explosion coming from the first checkpoint. We were told to go to safe rooms. I also hear guns firing,” a doctor at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital in Kabul told AFP. “I can still hear gun 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.
The hospital was previously attacked in 2017, when gunmen disguised as medical personnel killed at least 30 people.
AFP journalists heard a second blast in the city, as well as the sound of gunfire.
A Taliban media spokesman confirmed both explosions. “One explosion has happened at the gate of the military hospital and a second somewhere near the hospital, this is our initial information, we will provide more details later,” he told AFP.
Qari Saeed Khosty, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said Taliban special forces had rushed to the scene to secure the area. “The blast has caused casualties, details will be shared later,” he said.
Ambulances Speeding Through Kabul
An Italian NGO which runs a separate hospital in the capital tweeted that it has received nine patients with injuries from the blast site in the capital’s 10th police district.
Pictures shared on social media showed black smoke billowing into the air after the explosions, the first of which went off at around 1:00 pm (0830 GMT).
Second explosion was occurred in Kabul. No details on possible casualties. pic.twitter.com/ZBSqHbisua
— Zahra Rahimi (@ZahraSRahimi) November 2, 2021
Although both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy. IS has claimed four mass casualty attacks since the Taliban takeover.
AFP journalists saw Taliban fighters racing to the scene in two armored personnel carriers (APCs) and pick-up trucks.
Roads close to the heavily fortified “Green Zone” where the buildings of several former Western embassies are located were closed off to traffic and Taliban guards scaled up searches.
Sirens could be heard in the streets and ambulances were seen speeding towards the blast site.
The Taliban, who have yet to be recognized by any foreign power, are facing multiple challenges as they transition from militant group to governing power, including a worsening humanitarian crisis and major economic disruption.