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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

Militants attack dormitory of midwife training centre in Afghanistan

Blasts and gunshots rock the city of Jalalabad as security forces scramble to the area

Afghan security officials secure the road leading to the scene of an attack by militants in Jalalabad, July 28. Explosions were heard amid the continuing co-ordinated attacks. EPA
Afghan security officials secure the road leading to the scene of an attack by militants in Jalalabad, July 28. Explosions were heard amid the continuing co-ordinated attacks. EPA

Gunmen attacked the dormitory of a midwife training centre in eastern Afghanistan today, killing at least two and wounding five, sparking a six-hour fight with security officials.

Plumes of black smoke rose above the city of Jalalabad as blasts and gunshots were heard in the city's third police district on Saturday.

A witness told AFP he saw three gunmen launch the attack. Attaullah Khogyani, provincial governor spokesman, said there were 67 people, including students and teachers in the building. Two, a guard and a driver were killed, and five others were wounded.

"The Afghan security forces have cordoned off the area and launched an operation to gun down the attackers," Mr Khogyani told reporters while the assault was underway.

Security forces launched a counterattack and ambulances rushed to the scene. Security forces could be seen dismantling improvised explosive devices in the street, and sporadic gunfire was heard.

Smoke rises from an area where explosions and gunshots were heard, in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan July 28. Reuters
Smoke rises from an area where explosions and gunshots were heard, in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan July 28. Reuters

The motive for the attack is not known, but midwives have been targeted for providing reproductive health services to women. Extremist religious groups and many Afghans oppose women working outside the home.

Despite thousands of women trained as midwives since the US-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan still has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world.

There has been a series of attacks in Jalalabad in recent weeks, part of a bitter war involving the Taliban and ISIS militants. There was no claim of responsibility for Saturday's attack, but other recent attacks in the province of Nangarhar, of which Jalalabad is the capital, have been claimed by ISIS. The Taliban denied responsibility in a WhatsApp message to reporters.

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On July 11, militants raided an education department compound in the city, sparking an hours-long battle with security forces. Eleven people were killed in the attack, all of whom were educational branch employees.

The Taliban has the largest military presence in the area, although ISIS is a small but potent factor.

A Nato-led operation in Afghanistan is helping train local forces to tackle insurgency in Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan have increased in 2018, with civilian death numbers reaching an all-time high in the first six months of 2018, according to a UN report.

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