Afghan attack: Gunmen storm Kabul maternity hospital

An Afghan soldier stands guard near the scene of an attack at an MSF (Doctors without Borders) clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan, 12 May 2020.Image copyright

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The clinic has 100 beds and a number of foreign staff

Afghan special forces are battling unidentified gunmen who have attacked a hospital in the capital, Kabul.

Locals heard two blasts, then gunfire. About 140 staff were inside at the time, a doctor, who fled the building, told the BBC. Many are still trapped.

Part of the hospital is run by the international medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and some of those working there are foreigners.

In Nangarhar province a suspected suicide bomber has attacked a funeral.

Dozens of people are thought to have been killed or wounded in that blast but casualty numbers are not confirmed. No group has said it carried out either attack.

In Kabul, eight people have been injured, including two children, officials said. Another 70 people, including women and children, have been brought out safely.

The hospital has a maternity wing run by MSF. Many foreign staff live in a guesthouse behind the hospital building and the doctor said he saw an explosion there too.

The Taliban, who signed a withdrawal agreement with the United States more than two months ago, have denied involvement.

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The hospital was full of patients, doctors and nurses

In the past, similar attacks on foreign and other civilians in this mostly Shia area of the capital have been attributed to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which has not yet issued a statement.

In 2017, IS gunmen disguised as medical staff attacked Kabul’s main military hospital, prompting widespread shock and anger and raising questions about security. The authorities said about 50 people were killed.

But the Taliban also attack hospitals. Last September, 20 people died after a truck packed with explosives was detonated by militants from the group outside a hospital in southern Zabul province.

In the eastern province of Nangarhar, dozens of people are feared dead or wounded in the attack on the funeral procession of a local police commander.

“Initial information shows about 40 people killed and wounded in the attack,” Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP news agency.

In northern Balkh province, at least 10 people have been killed and as many others injured in an air strike by US forces, reports say.

Local residents and the Taliban claim the victims were all civilians. But the Afghan Defence Ministry said all those killed were militants.

Since the February peace deal, talks have broken down over a prisoner swap agreed between the US and the Taliban and violence has continued unabated. IS were not part of the negotiations.

The agreement was aimed at ending more than 18 years of war since US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power following the 9/11 attacks on the US, whose mastermind Osama Bin Laden had been given sanctuary by the Islamist group.

Tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. Many more have been injured or displaced from their homes.

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