Afghan official: Death toll from hospital attack rises to 50

Gen. Helaludin Helal, deputy defense minister speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Helal said the official death toll from last week's militant assault on a Kabul military hospital has risen to 50. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

An Afghan official says the official death toll from last week's militant assault on a Kabul military hospital has risen to 50. Officials originally set the death toll at 30 for the March 8 attack

KABUL, Afghanistan — The official death toll from last week's militant assault on a Kabul military hospital has risen to 50, according to the results of a preliminary investigation.

Officials originally set the death toll at 30 for the March 8 attack. But Gen. Helaludin Helal, the deputy defense minister and head of the team investigating the attack and its aftermath, released the new number in a press conference Wednesday.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group. Helal said there were five attackers in total: one detonated a suicide car bomb and four gunmen wearing white lab coats stormed the main hospital building and started shooting doctors and patients.

Helal said 24 people have been arrested and are under investigation — either for involvement in planning the attack or dereliction of duty in failing to prevent it.

"There is no evidence to prove that insiders were involved in the attack," he said.

The attack on the 400-bed military facility, located near two civilian hospitals in Kabul's heavily-guarded diplomatic quarter, set off clashes with security forces that lasted several hours.

The brazen assault reflected the capability of militant groups in Afghanistan to stage large-scale and complex attacks in the heart of the capital, underscoring the challenges the government continues to face in establishing security for ordinary Afghans.

Meanwhile an Australian aid worker, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan last November, was released, said Mohammad Salim Almas, the head of the criminal investigations department for the Kabul police.

Almas didn't provide any details on where or how the aid worker was released, but said there were no clashes involved and no one was arrested in connection with the kidnapping.

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