With his voice trembling, nurse Abdul Qadeer recalled the horror of coming face-to-face with one of the gunmen who stormed Kabul’s main military hospital, as his terrified colleagues leapt out of high-floor windows to save themselves.
Gunmen wearing white medical coats stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital on Wednesday, killing 38 people and wounding more than 70 others, including patients, doctors and nurses in a six-hour attack.
Startled by the loud cracks of gunfire, Qadeer, an operating room nurse, was fleeing for his life when he saw one of the AK47-toting attackers, spraying bullets at screaming patients and guards on the third floor.
“My friend was shot in front of me,” Qadeer told AFP. “I was stuck for a while, but then I had to jump in order to escape.”
Qadeer, who was left badly injured, was not alone. Medical staff hiding in the hospital wards pleaded for help on social media, with some climbing on to the ledge of a top-floor window to escape the gunmen.
Majid Mojib, in charge of the hospital’s intensive care unit, broke a leg as he plunged from a third-floor window.
“I saw in horror that doctors, patients, everybody was screaming as they were chased by gunmen spraying bullets indiscriminately,” Mojib told AFP while receiving treatment in another city hospital.
“Many did not survive. It was a massacre.”
As the carnage dragged on for six hours, relatives of the victims gathered outside the hospital, anxious, tearful and angry at security officials for failing to stop the attackers.
“My brother (an Afghan soldier) was wounded in the battlefield but got killed in this military hospital,” an angry man shouted.
“He was killed in a place where he should have been treated and protected.”
With some 400 beds, the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan facility is considered the jewel in the crown of the Afghan health service and it receives dozens of soldiers every day who have been wounded fighting the Taliban, as well as insurgents themselves.
The attack claimed by Islamic State jihadists prompted an avalanche of condemnation, with many saying it constituted a grave breach of international humanitarian law.
“Hospitals must be safe places for doctors to provide care to wounded and sick people,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement.
“Everyone has the right to be treated safely, whether they are women, men, children or wounded combatants.”
Meanwhile, Mojib was wracked by survivor’s guilt.
“I survived and my leg is being operated on, but remembering my patients, my colleagues who I left behind brings tears to my eyes,” he said.
© Agence France-Presse