On 8 March, a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan was attacked by gunmen donned in white lab coats pretending to be doctors. At least 38 people were killed while dozens were wounded in the attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Security forces attempted to defend the 400-bed military facility, located near two civilian hospitals in Kabul's heavily-guarded diplomatic quarter. The ordeal lasted six hours and the four attackers were believed to have been shot dead.

Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said there were "more than 30 killed and more than 50 wounded" in the attack. Afghan forces battled the attackers floor by floor, he added.

Four gunmen were involved, including a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives vest at the rear of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital, which is situated across the road from the heavily fortified US embassy. The three other attackers were then shot dead by security forces, said Waziri.

IS attacks crippling government forces

A member of the security forces was also killed in the shootout, while three other security officers were wounded. Along with the suicide vests, the attackers also had AK-47 rifles and hand grenades, Waziri said.

The assault and other similar assaults by the Islamic State group reflected their capability to stage large-scale and complex attacks in the heart of Kabul, underscoring the challenges the government continues to face to provide and improve security for Afghan citizens.

"This is not the first attack by the Islamic State group, they have carried out several bloody attacks in Kabul," said Obaidullah Brekzai, a lawmaker from southern Uruzgan province.

According to the country's military officials, the attack began midmorning with the detonation of the suicide bombs at the hospital's front gates. Later into the afternoon, government forces were deployed and sporadic exchanges of fire occurred in the hospital. Television footage also showed one Afghan military helicopter dropping reinforcements.

But when the security forces regained control, witnesses had already heard a second explosion throughout the hospital compound. By mid-afternoon, the attack was over and a clean-up operation was underway.

Attack reinforces fact that IS has no humanitarian values

Abdul Qadir, a hospital worker who witnessed the attack, said an attacker shot at him and his colleagues. Ghulam Azrat, another survivor, said he escaped through a fourth floor window after attackers killed two of his friends.

The acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Adele Khodr, warned in a statement that hospitals, medical staff and patients "must never be placed at risk and under no circumstances be subject to attack". She urged all parties in the conflict to abide by and "respect all medical workers, clinics and hospitals in compliance with international law."

However the IS has not heeded the warning. In 2016, at least 41 attacks have occurred on healthcare facilities and workers across Afghanistan.

Mohammad Nahim, a restaurant worker in Kabul, said he worries that IS militants are getting stronger. "Daesh has no mercy on the humanity," he added, using an Arabic name for the group.

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani said that the assault "trampled all human values" as "in all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan." MIMS

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