Afghan, U.S. Forces Storm Kandahar Hospital
Monday’s raid ended the standoff with the al-Qaida gunmen, who had been left at the hospital before the Taliban surrendered Kandahar in early December. The gunbattle lasted nine hours.
“Early in the morning, the American soldiers came,” said Najabullah, an Afghan commander. “The Arabs [al-Qaida fighter]) saw them, and they started fighting.”
The final assault was launched just after the noon call to Islamic prayer.
The Arab “were fighting to the last moment of their lives,” said the provincial government spokesman Khalid Pashtoon.
Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said Afghan allied fighters led the final assault.
“They were the front force that attacked the wing and met headlong with those al-Qaida members,” he said. “We assisted them.”
Stufflebeem added it was not known who killed the gunmen. “In terms of… who might have killed whom, that’s not being tracked,” he said. One Afghan fighter was in serious condition.
Afghan commanders said three of the Arabs were killed by grenades, and three others in the assault.
A doctor working in the hospital’s emergency ward said he saw bodies that were partially burned, presumably by grenades used to clear the wing where the gunmen had barricaded themselves.
The men killed today were the last of ten al-Qaida fighters who barricaded themselves in the hospital in early December. On January 8, one fighter tried to escape through a window before blowing himself up with a grenade after realizing he was going to be captured by anti-Taliban forces. Two others escaped earlier.11