Senior Taliban commander killed in response to IS group attack on Kabul hospital

A Taliban military commander was killed when his men responded to an Islamic State suicide bomb attack and a firearm attack on a hospital in the Afghan capital, authorities said Wednesday.

The Taliban spent 20 years waging an insurgency against the overthrown US-backed government before taking control of Kabul in August.

Now they face the fight to bring stability to Afghanistan, which has been hit in recent weeks by a series of bloody assaults claimed by rivals, the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K).

At least 19 people were killed in Tuesday’s attack on Kabul’s main military hospital, according to a Health Ministry official who did not want to be named.

Hamdullah Mokhlis, a member of the Haqqani hardline network and an officer in the Badri Corps special forces, is the most important figure to have died since the Taliban seized Kabul.

“When he received the information that the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital was under attack, Maulvi Hamdullah (Mokhlis), the commander of the Kabul corps, immediately rushed to the scene,” the Taliban media official said.

“We tried to stop him but he laughed. We later learned that he was martyred in the face-to-face fight at the hospital,” he added.

The attack began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the entrance to the facility before gunmen stormed the hospital grounds.

As part of the response, the new rulers of Kabul deployed their special forces on the roof of the building in a helicopter captured from the former US-backed government of Afghanistan.

In a statement issued on its Telegram channels, IS-K said that “five fighters from the Islamic State group carried out simultaneous coordinated attacks” on the site.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid downplayed the death toll, saying the attack was quelled in 15 minutes thanks to swift intervention.

‘Our lives were ending’

Although both the IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they differ on the details of religion and strategy.

IS has claimed four mass casualty attacks since the Taliban took power on August 15, including suicide bombings against Shiite Muslim mosques. The group considers Shiite Muslims heretics.

The hospital, which cares for wounded soldiers from both the Taliban and former Afghan security forces, was previously attacked in 2017, when gunmen disguised as medical personnel killed at least 30 people in a siege that lasted hours.

The 2017 attack was also claimed by the Islamic State group, and the Taliban denied responsibility.

Witnesses described a scene of terror to AFP on Tuesday, when patients and doctors tried to lock themselves in rooms on the upper floors and shots broke out.

A woman who was trapped in the hospital when the attack began told AFP that she and her friend “felt that we were going to die, that our lives were ending.”

“There was an explosion at the door,” Rowana Dawari, a poet and lecturer, told AFP.

“Daesh came and started shooting, we were stuck. We heard gunshots, broken glass. We locked ourselves in a bathroom,” he said, referring to IS by its local name.

“Later, the Taliban came and we saw that they were with our doctors, so we knew he was fine.”

(AFP)

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