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Explosions hit Afghanistan’s biggest military hospital

AW has geolocated one of the attacks, and analysed available footage.


3 Nov 2021

Warning: there are some graphic links and material in this article. AW has made efforts to censor graphic images.

On the morning of November 2, two explosions were heard in the vicinity of the Sardar Dawood Khan Hospital in Police District 10 of Kabul. The hospital, with 400 beds, is the largest military medical facility in Afghanistan.

News agencies report that at least 19 people were killed and 43 others injured, with local sources reporting at least 23 fatalities and 50 people wounded. There are said to be women and children among the casualties. Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) later claimed the attack via their Telegram channels.

According to Taliban officials, two explosions hit the entrance of the military hospital on Tuesday, followed immediately by heavy gunfire.

Afghan Witness (AW) has confirmed one of the explosions at the entrance of the hospital compound:

Figure 1: location of explosion (red) and gunfight (blue)

In video footage, three armed men can be seen walking on the hospital premises, with a third person - seemingly unmoving - laying on the ground.

Eyewitnesses alleged that following the explosions, unidentified gunmen entered the hospital while shooting:

Figure 2: Geolocation of three armed men outside the hospital entrance

The Taliban reportedly responded by deploying ground forces and helicopters:

Figure 3: two helicopters flying around the area of the attack

An image posted on social media claiming to be of the bodies of two of the attackers, was geolocated by AW to the entrance of the main hospital building:

Figure 4: satellite image of hospital entrance (top left), image of hospital entrance (bottom left), compared to image of alleged ISKP fighters killed.

Figure 5: overview of the hospital attack.

The de facto Taliban authorities appeared to downplay the scale of the incident. An official statement posted by the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated that five attackers were neutralised within 15 minutes, and that three women, one child and three Taliban fighters were killed outside the hospital, with five others wounded. The statement claimed that no one was harmed inside the hospital itself.

Figure 6: Taliban statement claiming five attackers were neutralised within 15 minutes.

It was also reported that among the dead was senior Taliban commander, Maulvi Hamdullah Mukhlis, head of the Kabul military corps and one of the first Taliban commanders to enter the abandoned presidential palace as Kabul was taken over last August.

ISKP stated on their Telegram channels that one suicide vest, multiple attackers and a car bomb were used and that “five Islamic State group fighters carried out simultaneous coordinated attacks”. According to the statement, one group member detonated an explosive belt at the entrance of the hospital before others entered the facility opening fire.

Figure 7: ISKP claim of the attack

Amaq News wrote an article about the attack, posting it to their private Telegram channels, which featured a unique image appearing to be from before the attack took place, showing the Taliban guarding the hospital:

Figure 8: Amaq news article about the attack (from Telegram channel)

Using the image provided by Amaq News and an image of the aftermath of the attack, AW was able to verify an image [GRAPHIC] claiming to be of one of the ISKP attackers. It appears the attacker was responsible for the VBIED (car bomb) attack using a motorcycle at the entrance to the hospital compound.

Figure 9: Geolocation of suicide bomber at hospital entrance.

One day after the attack, the Taliban released a video of a ‘clearance operation’. AW verified the footage as being from the roof of the main building of the hospital:

Figure 10: geolocation of a screenshot from the Taliban clearance operation video.

ISKP mounted a complex attack on the hospital in 2017, where more than 30 people were killed. Last month, the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on Kandahar’s largest Shia mosque, targeting the Hazara ethnic minority. One week prior to this, they also claimed a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in the city of Kunduz, again targeting Shia muslims.

As well as religious and ethnic minorities, the militant group has also previously targeted Afghan security forces, Afghan politicians and ministries, the Taliban, US and Nato forces, and international organisations.

AW will continue to monitor the group’s activity.

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