Kabul — Two explosions rocked Kabul on Tuesday in an attack targeting a large military hospital in the Afghan capital. A Taliban official confirmed that at least seven people were killed, but there were reports of a much higher death toll from the blasts and an ensuing gun battle..
It was the latest in a string of attacks in the weeks since the Taliban seized power in August following a two-decade insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in.
A local official told AFP that 19 people were killed and about 50 others wounded in the attack on the hospital, but Bilal Karimi, the Taliban regime's deputy spokesman, told CBS News that at least seven people, including three women and a child and three members of the Taliban, were killed. He said those figures could change as more information became available on the attack against the Sardar Dawood Khan Military hospital.
Karimi said five fighters from the, ISIS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, carried out the attack. He said four of them were killed in a gun battle with Taliban forces and one was arrested with wounds. The spokesman said he could not confirm reports that the initial explosion was the result of a suicide bomber.
The Taliban's struggle to bring stability to Afghanistan has been dogged by a series of bloody assaults by ISIS-K, but the group did not immediately confirm responsibility for Tuesday's bloodshed.
"I am inside the hospital. I heard a big explosion coming from the first checkpoint. We were told to go to safe rooms. I also hear guns firing," a doctor at the Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan Hospital in Kabul told AFP. "I can still hear gun firing inside the hospital building. I think the attackers are going from room to room... like the first time it was attacked."
The hospital was previously attacked in 2017, when gunmen disguised as medical personnel killed at least 30 people.
AFP journalists heard a second blast in the city, as well as the sound of gunfire. A Taliban media spokesman confirmed both explosions.
"One explosion has happened at the gate of the military hospital and a second somewhere near the hospital, this is our initial information, we will provide more details later," he told AFP.
Qari Saeed Khosty, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said Taliban special forces had rushed to the scene to secure the area. "The blast has caused casualties, details will be shared later," he said.
An Italian NGO which runs a separate hospital in the capital tweeted that it had received nine patients with injuries from the blast site in the capital's 10th police district.
Pictures shared on social media showed black smoke billowing into the air after the explosions, the first of which went off at around 1:00 p.m. (0430 Eastern).
Although both ISIS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamist militant groups, they have differed over the minutiae of religion and strategy and fought for years., as the Afghan franchise is known, has claimed four mass-casualty attacks since the Taliban takeover.
AFP journalists saw Taliban fighters racing to the scene in armored personnel carriers (APCs) and pick-up trucks.
Roads close to the heavily fortified "Green Zone," where the buildings of several former Western embassies are located, were closed off to traffic as Taliban guards scaled up searches.
Sirens could be heard in the streets and ambulances were seen speeding towards the blast site.
The Taliban, which has yet to be recognized by any foreign power as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, is facing multiple challenges as it tries to transition from militant group to governing power, including a worsening humanitarian crisis and major economic disruption.
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