Slain US doctor’s colleague recalls deadly attack in Kabul


By Kay Johnson, AP

KABUL, Afghanistan–It was midmorning at Cure International Hospital in Kabul when Dr. Jerry Umanos took a phone call. He told co-workers he had to meet some guests at the front gate and would be right back.

Minutes later, Umanos and two of his American guests were dead, gunned down by an Afghan police security guard. Another American was wounded.

A day after Thursday’s attack at the hospital run by a U.S.-based Christian charity, those colleagues were mourning the pediatrician known as “Dr. Jerry” who treated children and helped train Afghan medical workers.

The identities of the Americans gunned down beside Umanos have not been released, and other details of the latest attack on foreigners in Kabul, such as the motive of the gunman, remain unclear. Two of the dead visitors were described only as a father and son.

Thursday began at the hospital like most other days, with the 57-year-old Chicago pediatrician talking with Afghan doctors and checking on the progress of the 30-40 children who are patients, according to Dr. Noor Ahmad, a physician at Cure. Umanos had been working in Kabul for at least seven years.

No one thought much about it when he received a call to come to the hospital’s front gate to escort some visitors inside, Ahmad said.

“Then, inside the hospital, a terrible sound of guns was heard,” he said.

By the time terrified staff reached the scene, Umanos and two other men were dead, and an American woman was wounded in the left hand and chest, Ahmad said. He said he never learned who the visitors were but assumed they were trainers for a disaster preparedness course the hospital was planning for Sunday.

“It’s very terrible. I didn’t sleep last night,” Ahmad said.

Cure International Hospital has about 100 beds and a staff of 26 doctors and 64 nurses. It is located on the western outskirts of Kabul, near the hollowed-out ruins of Darulaman Palace that was destroyed by the civil war in the 1990s.

The hospital compound has a front gate and a security post set about 50 meters (yards) back, with the main building set farther back in a courtyard.

Umanos went to the gate at about 9:50 a.m. to greet and sign in his visitors, said Hafiz Khan, police chief of Kabul’s District 6.

As the party walked toward the hospital and approached the security post, the police guard raised his Kalashnikov rifle and opened fire, Khan said.

“After that, he put the barrel of the Kalashnikov to his stomach and shot himself,” Khan said, confirming the account by Cure International. Earlier, an Afghan police spokesman had said the attacker was shot by other security forces.