Chicago doctor among 3 Americans killed in Afghan hospital attac - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago doctor among 3 Americans killed in Afghan hospital attack

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Dr. Jerry Umanos (Lawndale Christian Health Center) Dr. Jerry Umanos (Lawndale Christian Health Center)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A Chicago doctor was among three American physicians killed when an Afghan security guard opened fire at a Kabul hospital on Thursday morning. A U.S. nurse was also wounded in the attack, an official said.

The shooting at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul was the latest in a string of deadly attacks on foreign civilians in the Afghan capital this year.

Two of the dead Americans were a father and son, Minister of Health Soraya Dalil said. The third American was Chicagoan Jerry Umanos, a Cure International doctor who had worked in Kabul for seven years. FOX 32 News is told Umanos was killed when when he was walking out of the hospital. 

Those who knew him say he was a loving, caring physician who served all of his patients with the utmost respect. He was a pediatrician for 25 years and loved his work in Afghanistan.

Umanos' brother and law said he and his wife first went to Afghanistan years ago and would come back to Chicago to earn enough money so he could continue his volunteer work. He says his sister, Jan Schuitema, went with Umanos and taught at a girls' school, but returned more often than he did to earn enough money so that he could stay in Afghanistan.

Those who worked at the Lawndale hospital with Umanos say they are working to process and mourn "this great loss."

"This loss is a great loss for his family, for those of us who worked with him, as well as for the people of Afghanistan," said Dr. Bruce Rowell.

Umanos worked as a pediatrician at Lawndale Christian Health Center for over 16 years but moved to Kabul in 2005 with his wife Jan, according to the LCHC website.

Jan says her husband loved the Afghan people and the family holds no ill will toward the country or the gunman. Jan also tells The Associated Press that she and her husband always knew the dangers of his volunteer work in Kabul, but they weren't afraid because of their Christian faith. They were married 34 years.

Dalil said an American nurse was also wounded in the attack.

"A child specialist doctor who was working in this hospital for the last seven years for the people of Afghanistan was killed and also two others who were here to meet him, and they were also American nationals," Dalil said. "The two visitors were father and son, and a woman who was also in the visiting group was wounded."

The attacker was a member of the Afghan Public Protection Force assigned to guard the hospital, according to District Police Chief Hafiz Khan. He said the man's motive was not yet clear.

The gunman, who was detained, was wounded during the attack and underwent surgery at midday in the same medical facility under heavy police guard, according to Kanishka Bektash Torkystani, a Ministry of Health spokesman.

Later in the afternoon, Dalil, the health minister, said he was recovering from the surgery before being questioned. Initial reports indicate he was shot by other security forces, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

"Five doctors had entered the compound of the hospital and were walking toward the building when the guard opened fire on them," Torkystani said. "Three foreign doctors were killed."

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirmed that three American citizens had been killed in the hospital attack but said it had no other information. It did not confirm Afghan reports that the three were doctors.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is praising the dedication of Umanos, calling his death tragic and his work selfless. Quinn says he was saddened by the news and calls Umanos "a kind-hearted and selfless man who for years sacrificed the comforts of home to serve those in need overseas." The governor says Umanos "helped countless people throughout his lifetime" - both in Chicago and around the world.

According to its website, the Cure International Hospital was founded in 2005 by invitation of the Afghan Ministry of Health. It sees 37,000 patients a year, specializing in child and maternity health as well as general surgery. It is affiliated with the Christian charity Cure International, which operates in 29 countries with the motto "curing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God."

The Afghan capital has seen a spate of attacks on foreign civilians in 2014, a worrying new trend as the U.S.-led military coalition prepares to withdraw most troops by the end of the year.

It was unclear whether the Taliban were behind Thursday's shooting, though the insurgents have claimed several major attacks that killed foreign civilians this year, an escalation of such attacks after years of mostly targeting foreign military personnel and Afghan security forces.

In January, a Taliban attack on a popular Kabul restaurant with suicide bombers and gunmen killed more than a dozen people, while in March gunmen slipped past security at an upscale hotel in the Afghan capital and killed several diners in its restaurant. Two foreign journalists were killed and another wounded in two separate attacks.

The hospital shooting is also the second "insider attack" by a member of Afghan security forces targeting foreign civilians this month.

On April 4, an Afghan police officer shot two Associated Press staff working in the eastern province of Khost, killing photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon.

Violence and insecurity have been spiraling in Afghanistan amid uncertainties surrounding the April 5 presidential election and the upcoming withdrawal at the end of the year of most international troops. An international military coalition has been in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban's hard-line Islamic government for sheltering al-Qaida leaders in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Also on Thursday, Afghan officials said security forces rescued a deputy minister who had been abducted last week in Kabul. Ahmad Shah Wahid, the deputy minister of public works, was found alive in the eastern province of Kapisa after being moved twice by his captors, according to provincial government Mehrabdin Safi.

Acting on intelligence that Wahid had been moved to the area and was about to be moved again, authorities set up checkpoints on major roads. When the kidnappers, who have not been identified, were stopped at one checkpoint, they fled on foot, leaving Wahid behind in the car, Safi said.

"He is fine now," Safi said of Wahid. "We have sent him to Kabul back to his family."

FOX 32's Darlene Hill contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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