KABUL — Hundreds of mourners gathered Thursday at a graveyard on the northern edge of Kabul to bury a 37-year-old pharmacist — one of 31 people killed in an attack on a hospital in the Afghan capital the previous day that was claimed by the Islamic State group.
The brazen daytime assault saw four gunmen in white lab coats storm the military hospital in a highly secure part of the city Wednesday, setting off an hours-long gunbattle with security forces. Initially, the death toll was reported to be 30 but one of the wounded died overnight.
Behroz Behnam, who left behind three small children, was gunned down on the third floor of the hospital, said his brother, Behzad, also an officer in the Afghan army.
Behzad, who had been deployed with the military outside the hospital during the attack, said the gunmen went floor by floor in a killing rampage. When they came to Behnam, they opened fire at him and two other officers, said Behzad.
When he made it inside the hospital, Behzad found his brother dying from gunshot wounds to the chest and arm.
"When I finally got to him, it was just moments before he died," Behzad said. "All that was left for me to do was to tell my family and bring his body home."
All the attackers, including two who detonated their suicide vests, were killed by the time the assault ended.
Standing beside Behnam's graveside covered with flowers, his father, Afghan army Gen. Jalandar Shah made an impassioned plea to the international community to help war-battered Afghanistan put an end to the fighting.
"As a father, as a human being I am calling out to the international community to please pay attention," he said. "Stop the killing of Afghans. It is enough all this killing. It's enough."
Inside the hospital, experts were scouring every inch of the facility for evidence that IS was behind the attack, which also wounded 53 people, said deputy defence ministry spokesman Mohammed Radmanish.
Radmanish told The Associated Press that even though IS claimed the assault, Afghan authorities "must do our own investigations to know who is responsible."
Afghan forces have been under increasing pressure by the Taliban and also from Islamic State militants, mostly in the country's east.
Wednesday's attack reflected the Afghan militants' capability to strike at the country's heavily guarded capital despite government efforts to improve security for ordinary Afghans.
Amir Shah, The Associated Press