By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA): A terror attack on a major hospital in central Kabul has shocked Afghans hardened by decades of war, insurgency and terrorism.
Staff, patients and visitors were among the 49 people killed in the suicide attack on the Dawood Khan Military Hospital on Wednesday and more than 80 were wounded, many of them critically.
Despite its name, the hospital is used by both civilians and military personnel.
“You tell me a single place for the public which can be considered safe?” Khair Mohammad, a street vendor whose pitch near the hospital meant he witnessed much of the bloodbath, told Anadolu Agency.
“We have witnessed deaths caused by such attacks on homes, in mosques, markets, funerals and now a hospital.
“I see ambulances bringing wounded people, elderly, men, women and children to this hospital on daily basis but unfortunately this very place, which was healing the wounds of others, became a target.”
The hospital — commonly known as the 400-Bed Hospital and situated in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave — was targeted by four attackers armed with assault rifles and grenades.
The militants, who were reported dressed as doctors, were all killed by police special forces in a seven-hour siege. Daesh later claimed responsibility for the assault.
Surgical assistant Abdul Qadeer described his horror at seeing colleagues gunned down.
– Indiscriminate shooting
“I saw one of the attackers wearing a white gown and shooting indiscriminately in the hallway of the hospital. I was shocked and stunned. We have lost patients and colleagues.”
Another survivor, Gulah Hazrat, jumped from the second floor to escape the gunmen, who took positions on the second and third floors as police moved in.
“There is enough security at the entrance of the hospital, but these infidels are attacking places that are for the public and cannot be totally sealed,” Hazrat, who was visiting his brother at the hospital, said.
Mohammad Ismael, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry said most of the casualties were civilian patients, including women and children.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the attack as a war crime and said attacks targeting health facilities in Afghanistan had increased sharply since 2014.
Citing a recent report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the rights group said there were around 240 attacks in 2015 and 2016 that killed or injured medical personnel and closed, damaged or destroyed medical facilities.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 119 incidents where healthcare facilities were targeted in 2016, HRW said.
The Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for the majority of these incidents although security forces carried out raids on clinics or have used medical facilities for military purposes, it added.
In October 2015, a U.S. airstrike on a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Kunduz, northeast Afghanistan, left 42 dead.
[Photo: An Afghan security forces member carries an injured man on his back after the Taliban attack on The Dawood Khan Military Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 08, 2017. Photographer: Muhabiri Haroon Sabawoon/AA]