The attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital in Kabul has left more than 30 people dead, the Defense Ministry said.
Several gunmen, dressed as doctors, attacked the facility near the US Embassy early on Wednesday, engaging special forces units.
Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said there were “more than 30 killed and more than 50 wounded” in the attack.
According to AP, more than 60 people have been injured.
Waziri said security forces have now taken full control of the facility, adding that the fighting is over.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the assault on the Sardar Daud Khan hospital, Afghan TOLO News reported.
A security official told Reuters that the attack began with an explosion at the rear of the hospital, when between three to five gunmen toting automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the building.
The attackers, dressed as medical personnel, had taken position on the hospital’s upper floors, engaging special forces units that rushed to the scene.
As fighting continued, a second explosion was heard.
Abdul Qadir, a worker at the hospital, told Reuters that a number of gunmen appeared to be inside the hospital.
He said he saw one gunmen dressed as a doctor take out an AK-47 and open fire, killing at least one patient and one hospital worker. He also heard shots from several other points.
Medical staff trapped in the facility posted desperate messages for help on social media.
“Attackers are inside the hospital. Pray for us,” a hospital staff member wrote on Facebook, according to AFP.
“The attackers are shooting everywhere,” administrator Abdul Hakim told the news agency by telephone.
The 400-bed military hospital is located near two civilian hospitals in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, home to several heavily guarded embassies.
The NATO-led Resolute Support mission said it was ready to assist Afghan security services, Reuters reported.
“Our forces are there, and there is heavy fighting,” Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said.
Afghan helicopters circled over the area, surrounded by Afghan security forces, AP reported.
According to TOLO News, the assailants apparently first set off an explosion at the entrance of the building before entering the facility.
A security source told the media outlet that at least five suicide bombers targeted the hospital.
Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the defense ministry, said a number of attackers have entered the hospital.
“Our security forces are on location fighting the attackers but also keeping in mind to not cause any casualties, so it is a difficult situation,” he told Al Jazeera.
President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack.
“There is an ongoing terrorist attack in a hospital which tramples all human values,” he said.
“In all religions, a hospital is regarded as an immune site and attacking it is attacking the whole of Afghanistan,” Ghani noted.
The latest attack comes after at least 15 people were killed and wounded in coordinated attacks on a police station and an intelligence service office in Kabul last Wednesday, which were claimed by Taliban militants.