Blasts, gunfire hit Kabul military hospital
Thirty people killed at Sardar Daud Khan hospital in central Kabul, officials say, in attack claimed by ISIL.
At least 30 people have been killed in a bomb and gun attack on a military hospital in Afghanistan's capital, officials said, as ISIL claimed responsibility for the raid via social media.
Defence ministry officials said the attack started at 9:00 with a blast at the front gate of the Sardar Daud Khan hospital in the Wazir Akbar Khan area, central Kabul on Wednesday.
The gunmen, dressed as medical personnel, took position on upper floors of the hospital and engaged special forces sent to the scene, officials said.
Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the defence ministry, told Al Jazeera three attackers with automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the complex, the largest of its kind in the Afghan capital.
"Our security forces engaged but they were also careful to not cause any casualties. It was a difficult situation," Waziri said.
Security forces blocked off the area around the hospital, near a busy traffic intersection. As fighting went on, a second explosion struck inside the hospital.
Some patients climbed out of the building and could be seen sheltering on window ledges visible from outside the hospital, which treats military casualties from across Afghanistan.
ISIL claims attack
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the attack, hours after the initial blast. "Infiltrators from the Islamic State attacked the military hospital in Kabul," the group said via a verified Telegram account.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack saying it "trampled on all human values".
"In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan," he said in impromptu remarks during a speech for International Women's Day in Kabul.
The Wazir Akbar Khan area of central Kabul is heavily guarded and houses several government offices and foreign embassies.
The attack comes a week after 16 people were killed in simultaneous Taliban suicide assaults on two security compounds in Kabul.
Dozens of others were wounded as a suicide car bomber struck an Afghan police precinct in western Kabul and a five-hour gun battle ensued after another attacker snuck in, sending clouds of smoke billowing into the sky.
In the second attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of an Afghan intelligence agency branch in eastern Kabul.
The growing violence underscores rising insecurity in Afghanistan over the resurgent Taliban.
The country is bracing for an intense fighting season in the spring as the government's repeated bids to launch peace negotiations with the Taliban have failed.
Kabul last month endorsed US general John Nicholson's call for thousands of additional coalition troops in Afghanistan to fend off the group before the spring offensive.
Extra troops were needed to end the stalemate in the war, Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told the US Congress in what could be President Donald Trump's first major test of military strategy.
Separately, the Pentagon this year said it would deploy some 300 US Marines this spring to Helmand province alone.
The Marines will assist a NATO-led mission to train Afghan forces, in the latest sign that foreign forces are increasingly being drawn back into the worsening conflict.
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