CNN | May 21, 2011
A suicide bombing ripped through a military hospital in Kabul on Saturday as a warning surfaced from the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan of increased “high-profile attacks” over the summer.
In a memorandum to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Gen. David Petraeus said it likely that insurgents will pursue such operations over the coming months in an attempt to demonstrate their ability to strike.
He called on international forces to balance their tactical needs with those of the civilian population.
“These attacks may increase the risk of civilian casualties and put Afghan and ISAF forces in difficult situations,” Petraeus said in a memorandum made public Saturday.
“In the face of such enemy actions, we must continue our efforts to reduce civilian casualties to an absolute minimum.”
The Kabul attack underscores Petraeus’ warning.
Six people were killed and 26 others were injured in the bombing, according to Zahir Azimi, a ministry of defense spokesman.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility. Zabiullah Mojahed told CNN that 51 people had died and two of the group’s members carried out suicide attacks on the Charsd Bester military.
“One of them detonated inside the eating place, and the second one was shot to death, and now the operation is over,” he said.
“As a result, 51 people (have) been killed, including foreigners.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai deplored the action, and ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Vic Beck, called the strike “abhorrent,” saying it “represents the lowest, most cowardly attack.”
The Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital, a 400 bed-hospital, is the largest medical military facility in the country and provides medical services to Afghan soldiers and their families, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.
The strike occured when medical students where at lunch, and the United Nations emphasized that international humanitarian law bans attacks on medical workers and hospitals.
“All medical personnel and facilities must be respected and protected in all circumstances. Further, directing an attack against a zone established to shelter wounded and sick persons, and civilians from the effects of hostilities, is also illegal and prohibited. As parties to the conflict, all anti-government elements have clear responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and to not attack them,” the U.N. Afghan mission said in a statement.