Extremists attacked a school for midwives in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday morning, forcing its young female students to flee or take refuge in a fortified safe room on its grounds, according to Afghan authorities and witnesses at the scene.
The attack began about 11 a.m. at the Midwifery Training Center in Jalalabad, as assailants believed to include suicide bombers as well as men armed with automatic weapons laid siege to the school. Five explosions were heard at the site, which is in the center of the city in Nangarhar Province.
Gunfire could be heard for more than two hours after the initial attack, after police special forces units arrived. A spokesman for the Health Ministry, Inamullah Miakhel, said three people had been wounded in the battle, all men.
The school had 65 to 70 students in a two-year midwifery program, most of them 18 to 19 years old. They lived in a dormitory in the center’s compound.
A police spokesmen initially said that all the young women had been evacuated successfully. Witnesses and officers at the scene, however, said that many had been unable to escape but were believed to have reached a safe room.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the attack bore hallmarks of the Islamic State, whose local affiliate is especially active in Nangarhar and responsible for many suicide attacks there.
The Taliban have recently disavowed attacks on civilian targets and have long refrained from targeting medical facilities or women’s institutions. The Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the group was behind the attack in a WhatsApp message.
The midwife center is run by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, and trains midwives for remote districts, where doctors are rare and most women will not go to male doctors.
It’s close to another midwifery school in Jalalabad that is run by the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee. That organization’s country director, Terje M. Watterdal, said the young women there were all safe but were in a safe room.
SOURCE: The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/28/world/asia/afghanistan-midwife-center.html