Three gunmen disguised as police busted into a hospital’s maternity ward and started shooting at mothers and babies staying at a small hospital in the southwestern corner of Kabul.
No group has claimed responsibility for the massacre of 24 people, including 16 women and two newborns. At least six babies lost their mothers in an attack that has shaken even the war-torn nation numbed by years of militant violence.
The raid, on the same day that at least 32 people died in a suicide bomb attack on a funeral in the eastern province of Nangarhar, threatens to derail progress towards U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks and ordered the military to switch to offensive mode rather than the defensive tactics it adopted after most U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from the country after a long, inconclusive war.
The Taliban has denied involvement in both attacks, although trust among officials and the broader public has worn thin, after an offshoot of ISIS admitted it was behind the Nangarhar bloodshed.
The Kabul attack began in the morning when gunmen entered the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, throwing grenades and shooting, government officials said. Security forces had killed the attackers by the afternoon.
The 100-bed, government-run hospital hosted a maternity clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Deborah Lyons, head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, condemned the hospital assault in a tweet. “Who attacks newborn babies and new mothers? Who does this?
Relations between the government in Kabul and the Taliban movement, which was ousted from power in 2001 by a U.S.-backed assault in response to the so-called 9/11 attacks, are already frayed, and Tuesday’s events will make any rapprochement harder.
Reuters / ABC Flash Point News 2020.