Suicide bomber kills 6 in Afghanistan hospital explosion

KABUL, Afghanistan — A midday explosion Saturday caused by a suicide bomber inside the Kabul's main military hospital killed six and injured dozens of others, officials said.

"It was a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a tent in the military hospital and killed six and injured 23 others who were all hospital workers," said Gen. Mohammed Zaher Azimy, defense ministry spokesman.

Taliban militants claimed credit for the attack shortly after noon, saying two of their suicide bombers entered the hospital.

Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital, a 400-bed hospital, is located in the Wazir Akbar Khan area, one of the highly secure parts of Kabul and home to the U. S. embassy, other diplomatic missions, non-governmental organizations and Afghan senior officials.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that two attackers equipped with suicide vests and small and heavy arms attacked the hospital's military and training facilities, and 51 foreign trainers and government officials were killed. Mujahid said a gun battle lasted about an hour.

"Our fighters have been able to penetrate in the enemy forces and with this tactic cause heavy losses for the foreign and national troops" Mujahid said. The Afghan defense ministry has not provided further details about the attackers' identity.

A medical student at the hospital said that the explosion, which occurred close to his room, was powerful.

"There were many people either killed or injured in the blast which shattered the glasses of the room where I was working, but luckily no one was injured by the broken glasses," Dr. Izatullah Weqar told McClatchy.

According to Weqar, only the legs remained on one body with a military uniform; he was said to be the suicide bomber.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the attack in the strongest terms.

"UNAMA stresses that attacks on medical workers and hospitals are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law. All medical personnel and facilities must be respected and protected in all circumstances," said a statement by Staffan de Mistura, UN special representative for Afghanistan.

Directing an attack against a zone established to shelter wounded and sick persons, as well as civilians, from the effects of hostilities, is also illegal and prohibited the statement said.

Recently there have been several incidents where Taliban sympathizers using police or army uniforms have penetrated highly security guarded areas and have killed many Afghan and NATO soldiers.

On April 15, in Kandahar, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform killed Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid inside his headquarters. On April 16 another suicide bomber wearing Afghan army uniform detonated his explosives in a military base in the eastern province of Laghman killed nine soldiers including six Americans.

On April 18 a suspected Taliban sympathizer opened fire inside the heavily-guarded Afghan defense ministry hours before the French defense minister's visit to the compound, killing two soldiers. He was shot dead before detonating his explosive vest.

The Taliban militants have stepped up their attacks as the Kabul government is preparing to take security responsibilities from the U.S.-led NATO forces in some parts of the country in coming months to pave the ground for U.S. combat troops drawdown begins this July.

The Taliban launched their spring offensive at the beginning of this month.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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