Gunmen dressed as doctors have stormed Afghanistan’s largest military hospital, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
A stand-off between the insurgents and security forces is ongoing in the district of Wazir Akbar Khan, General Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told the Associated Press. The area houses several embassies.
“The attackers are in the second and third floors of the hospital, and right now a gunbattle is underway,” he said. Witnesses reported the attackers wearing white medical coats.
Afghan policemen stand guard near the site of an explosion in Kabul on March 8. Kabul's diplomatic district was rattled by explosions and gunfire, as insurgents attacked Afghanistan's largest military hospital, officials said. Shah Marai/AFP/Getty
Afghan special forces responded to the attack as two explosions—one a car bomb in the hospital car park—were heard in the area, according to the Defense Ministry.
At least two people have been killed, according to reports, and 12 more are wounded, but the number could rise further.
The number of gunmen involved in the attack remains unknown.
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ISIS claimed responsibility for the assault via its Amaq news agency, which comes months after its first attacks in the country.
Suspicion had also fallen on the Taliban militant group ahead of its annual spring offensive. The Taliban regularly steps up its militant activity in the spring as the weather improves, allowing its fighters greater mobility.
“Attackers are inside the hospital. Pray for us,” a staff member at the Sardar Daud Khan hospital wrote on Facebook, AFP news agency reported.
Since NATO forces left Afghanistan in December 2014, the country has experienced rising instability, with both the Taliban and ISIS carrying out deadly attacks on government forces and civilians. Peace efforts between the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have continued to falter.
U.S. general John Nicholson last month called for further troop contributions in Afghanistan, but President Donald Trump is yet to elaborate on his policy in the country.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers