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

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

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

They now face the struggle to bring stability to Afghanistan, which has been hit in recent weeks by a series of bloody assaults claimed by rivals 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 declined to be named.

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

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

“We tried to stop him but he laughed. Later we found out that he had been martyred in the face-to-face fight at the hospital,” he added.

The attack began with a suicide bomber detonating his explosives near the entrance to the facility before gunmen stormed into the hospital compound.

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

In a statement posted 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 played down the death toll and said the attack was quelled within 15 minutes thanks to the rapid intervention.

“Our lives were ending”

Although ISIS and the Taliban are both die-hard Sunni Islamist militants, they differ on the details of religion and strategy.

IS has claimed responsibility for four massive attacks since the Taliban took control on August 15, including suicide bombings targeting Shia Muslim mosques. The group considers Shia Muslims to be heretics.

The hospital, which treats wounded soldiers from the Taliban and former Afghan security forces, was already attacked in 2017, when gunmen disguised as medics killed at least 30 people during an hour-long siege.

The 2017 attack was also claimed by ISIS, and the Taliban denied responsibility.

Witnesses told AFP on Tuesday a scene of terror, as patients and doctors tried to lock themselves in rooms on the upper floor and gunshots erupted.

A woman who was trapped in hospital at the start of the attack told AFP how she and her friend “knew we were going to die, that our lives were ending.”

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

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

“Later the Taliban came and we saw that they were with our medics, so we knew it was okay.”

(AFP)

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