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Suicide Blast Kills 6 Medical Students in Major Afghan Hospital

An ambulance leaves Kabul's main military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, May 21, 2011
An ambulance leaves Kabul's main military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, May 21, 2011

Afghan officials say a Taliban suicide bomber infiltrated the country's main military hospital Saturday, killing at least six medical students and wounding 23 other people.

The country's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the attack happened in a tent used as a dining hall at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital. Officials said foreigners were not among the casualties.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it had sent two attackers into the hospital grounds. However, authorities say only one explosion was heard.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan, as well as the international coalition, joined President Hamid Karzai in condemning the attack.

U.N. officials say the 400-bed hospital is the largest medical facility in the country. It provides medical services to members of the Afghanistan National Army and their families.

It also is located in a high-security area of the Afghan capital, near the U.S. Embassy. The ability of the Taliban to breach the heavily guarded hospital raises fresh questions about the possibility of militants infiltrating Afghan security forces.

In April, a Taliban militant opened fire inside the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul. There also have been several high-profile incidents of people in Afghan military uniforms opening fire on coalition trainers.

Last month, the Taliban announced it was unleashing more attacks against the coalition and their Afghan partners as part of the militant group's annual spring offensive.

The coalition has committed itself to handing over control of security operations in the country to the Afghan government by 2014.

Currently, there are at least 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan fighting an insurgency estimated to have up to 25,000 fighters.