Gunmen have stormed a midwife training centre in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, fighting security forces for several hours and killing several staff.
Nearly 70 people, including students and teachers, were inside the centre in the capital of Nangarhar province at the time of the attack on Saturday.
The Nangarhar police chief, Ghulam Sanyee Stanikzai, said two people – a guard and a driver – had been killed and five others wounded.
The provincial governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, said three people had been killed and eight wounded.
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Some of the people inside the centre escaped while others the gunmen took others hostage. “They were freed by the police during the operation,” Stanikzai said.
One attacker was wearing a suicide vest and blew himself up. The other was killed by security forces, Khogyani said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but , which has a stronghold in Nangarhar, has carried out most of the recent assaults in the Jalalabad.
The denied involvement in a WhatsApp message sent to journalists.
Inamullah Miakhil, a spokesman for the provincial health department, said 48 women from remote districts were enrolled in the two-year midwifery course.
The training facility, which is near the city centre in an area where several international organisations and consulates have offices, is funded by the public health ministry.
“We don’t know why the midwife centre came under attack,” Miakhil said, adding that all NGOs and government bodies in Jalalabad were at risk.
Jalalabad has been the scene of several attacks in recent months that have killed dozens, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against Isis and Taliban militants. Government buildings, including hospitals and medical facilities, are a common target for insurgents.
Midwives have been attacked in the past for providing reproductive health services to women, though such attacks are rare. Islamist groups and many ordinary Afghans also oppose women working outside the home.
Thousands of women have been trained as midwives since the US-led invasion in 2001, but still has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world.
The last major attack in Jalalabad was on 11 July when gunmen raided an education department compound in the city, sparking a battle with security forces that lasted for hours. At least 11 employees were killed.
A suicide bomb attack claimed by Isis on a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in on 1 July killed at least 19 people and wounded 21.
The Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group and Isis has a relatively small but potent presence, mainly in the east and north of the country. It first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 and quickly established a stronghold in Nangarhar. Intensified aerial and ground operations against the militants have failed to dislodge them.
An unprecedented three-day ceasefire involving Afghan security forces and the Taliban last month did not include Isis. The first formal nationwide truce since 2001 was marred by two Isis suicide attacks in Nangarhar.
The Afghan government and its foreign backers are seeking to strike a peace deal with the Taliban, but US forces have repeatedly said they plan to annihilate Isis.