Dozens Killed in ISIS Attack on Military Hospital in Afghanistan’s Capital

The fall of the Western-backed government in August and the Taliban takeover of the country have been followed by an increase in Islamic State attacks across Afghanistan.


Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

At least 25 people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded during an attack by the Islamic State on a military hospital in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday, according to local officials, with gunfire and explosions echoing throughout the city into the afternoon.

The attack, which included armed gunmen and at least one suicide bomber, targeted the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in one of Kabul’s more affluent neighborhoods, where both wounded soldiers who fought for the former government and Taliban fighters were being treated.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the attack was carried out by several members of the Islamic State, including a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives at the gate to the hospital. A car full of explosives outside the hospital also exploded, wounding dozens, and several Taliban fighters were killed and wounded in the ensuing gun battle, Mr. Mujahid said.

The Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, took responsibility for the attack hours later.

One of those killed was Mawlawi Hamdullah Rahmani, a senior commander responsible for the Taliban’s Kabul corps and one of the first Talibs to enter the presidential palace after the government collapsed in August, said Wahidullah Hashimi, a Taliban government official.

One doctor at the hospital, who declined to be named out of fear for his safety, said that the gunmen had entered a ward filled with wounded Taliban fighters and shot them in their beds.

Another doctor who was hiding inside the hospital said he could still hear gunfire within the building early Tuesday afternoon. Another person inside said the attackers had entered several floors and opened fire on anyone they saw, adding that some doctors and nurses had locked themselves on the third floor.

The fall of the Western-backed government in August and the Taliban takeover of the country have been followed by an increase in attacks by ISIS-K across Afghanistan. The terrorist group has taken advantage of the Taliban’s difficulty in securing urban centers.

A shopkeeper outside the hospital, who declined to be named, said the initial blasts had been 10 minutes apart, and there were a lot of people on the ground. He was wounded in the back, he added.


Talibs waiting to hear about injured comrades at the entrance of the hospital.Credit…Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

This complex attack on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital is most likely the first of its kind for the Taliban to contend with: armed actors and a suicide bomber entering a large, crowded building full of civilians. The Western-backed government dealt with such incidents by deploying commandos, who were almost always supported by NATO special operations forces.

The Taliban, known for carrying out these types of attacks during the past 20 years as insurgents, have little support or experience when it comes to dealing with such an event on their own.

Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan

Card 1 of 6

Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.

Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.

How did the Taliban gain control? See how the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in a few months, and read about how their strategy enabled them to do so.

What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are signs that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.

What does their victory mean for terrorist groups? The United States invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to terrorism, and many worry that Al Qaeda and other radical groups will again find safe haven there. On Aug. 26, deadly explosions outside Afghanistan’s main airport claimed by the Islamic State demonstrated that terrorists remain a threat.

How will this affect future U.S. policy in the region? Washington and the Taliban may spend years pulled between cooperation and conflict. Some of the key issues at hand include: how to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-K, and whether the U.S. should release $9.4 billion in Afghan government currency reserves that are frozen in the country.

Qari Saeed Khosty, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, confirmed on Twitter that there had been at least one explosion at the hospital and that Taliban forces were responding to the attack.

Islamic State suicide bombings in Kabul, the northern city of Kunduz and in Afghanistan’s second-largest city, Kandahar, have killed at least 90 people and wounded hundreds over the past several weeks.

In August, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed roughly 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members at the gates of Kabul’s international airport.

The Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital has been attacked repeatedly in past years, by both the Islamic State and the Taliban.


Smoke billowing after Tuesday’s explosion.Credit…via Reuters

Taimoor Shah reported from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Yaqoob Akbary contributed reporting from Kabul.

Leave a Reply