At least 37 people including newborn babies were killed and 85 others wounded on Tuesday in two separate attacks on a public hospital and funeral ceremony in war-hit Afghanistan.
Armed militants attacked a hospital in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital Kabul killing 13, including women and infants, Tariq Arian, a spokesman from the country’s interior ministry, said on Twitter. Another 15 were wounded in that attack, he said.
A separate attack on a funeral ceremony in eastern Nangarhar province killed at least 24 people and wounded about 70 others, provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said over the phone. The death toll could rise as the condition of some of the wounded was “quite critical,” he added.
No group has taken responsibility for the attacks. Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, denied involvement in the hospital attack via Twitter. The Islamic State group has repeatedly targeted Shiites in the same region.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the two horrific terrorist attacks in Afghanistan today,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in an emailed statement. “During the holy month of Ramadan and amidst the threat of Covid-19, these dual attacks are particularly appalling. We note the Taliban have denied any responsibility and condemned both attacks as heinous.”
In recent months, there had been hopes of greater security in the country after U.S. and Taliban officials signed a peace deal meant to wind down the war after more than 18 years of fighting. Civilian casualties had declined during the first quarter of the year even as attacks by the Taliban increased while the insurgent group negotiated the peace deal with the Trump administration, a U.S. watchdog said in a report on May 1.
On Tuesday, three assailants began shooting inside the maternity ward of the hospital in a Shiite neighborhood, Arian said by phone. The ward is run with the support of the international aid group Médecins Sans Frontières. All the gunmen were killed after a five-hour-long battle with Afghan forces, Arian added.
Pompeo called on the Taliban and the Afghan government to cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism,” he said.
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