As families and friends mourn the loss of those killed in an attack on a military hospital in Kabul, Afghan officials launched an investigation on those responsible for the assault.
Gunmen dressed in white lab coats stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital in the centre of the capital on Wednesday, firing shots, detonating explosives and then battling security forces for hours. The assault resulted in the death of more than 40 people.
The Afghan interior ministry and the defence ministry on Thursday announced a probe into a claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group that it was behind the attack.
“We are assessing Daesh claims to yesterday’s attack, but at this stage we can’t make a prejudgment prior to conclusion of investigation,” Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesperson of the Afghan ministry of interior said in a tweet, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL, also known as ISIS.
“Brutal terrorist groups like ISIS (ISIL), Taliban, Haqqani and many other regional terrorist networks with safe havens in Pakistan have been behind many horrific attacks in the past,” he added.
The Afghan Taliban, which attacked the Sardar Daud Khan hospital in 2013 killing six people, denied responsibility for Wednesday’s assault.
According to US military officials, ISIL has about 700 fighters in Afghanistan. The group has previously claimed responsibility for a number of attacks that resulted in a large number of casualties, including a twin suicide bombing at a protest march in Kabul last year that left at least 80 people dead.
As reports emerged of ISIL’s claim of responsibility, some analysts said the group does not have the capacity to conduct an attack of this magnitude.
“[ISIL] is still trying to gain a foothold in the east of the country,” Inayatullah Kakar, an Afghan security and political analyst, told a foreign news publication.
“ISIL does exist in Afghanistan, but for them to conduct an attack like this in an area that is heavily guarded and with this calibre that killed so many people, it doesn’t seem possible, as they are still trying to gain territories in eastern Afghanistan, while fighting the Taliban.”
The UN Security Council also denounced the attack in a statement released on Thursday and urged the international community to cooperate with the Afghan government to bring those responsible to justice and to suppress the financing of “terrorism”.
Death toll rises to 49
The death toll has risen to 49 with dozens wounded, a senior health official said on Thursday.
Salim Rassouli, director of Kabul hospitals, said 49 people had been killed in the attack on the Sardar Mohammad Khan military hospital on Wednesday, with at least 63 wounded.
Some uncertainty remained over the exact figure and one security official said more than 90 people had been wounded. Earlier estimates had put the number of dead at more than 30 with 50 wounded.
Gunmen went through the 400-bed hospital, shooting doctors, patients and visitors and battling security forces for several hours in a sophisticated operation claimed by Islamic State.