A group of four gunmen disguised in military uniform attacked a hospital in Afghanistan’s Kabul city on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people, including two newborn babies, Tolo News reported, citing the nation’s interior ministry. The attackers were killed after a five-hour encounter with security forces, the ministry said.
The attack started with explosions and gunfire close to a maternity hospital in the Dasht-e-Barchi locality in western Kabul. Afghanistan’s security forces evacuated over 40 people from the clinic in Kabul, said interior ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian. The medical facility is run by the international humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders, according to AFP.
An unidentified paediatrician who fled the hospital said he heard a loud explosion at the entrance of the building in Dasht-e-Barchi, a predominantly Shia neighbourhood that has seen attacks from terrorist group ISIL in the past. “The hospital was full of patients and doctors, there was total panic inside,” the doctor told AFP.
Images from the scene showed soldiers carrying one newborn baby to safety, swaddled in a blood-stained blanket. Another image showed a woman, who had been killed, still holding onto her baby. A nurse later confirmed to Reuters that the infant had survived and had been moved to an intensive care unit at another hospital.
Arian said three foreign nationals were among those safely evacuated and called the attack an “act against humanity and a war crime”. Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani in a televised address condemned the attacks and said he had ordered the military to switch to “offensive” mode rather than the defensive stance it had adopted as the United States withdraws troops and tries to broker the talks.
In a separate incident in the eastern Nangarhar province, 24 people were killed in a bombing at a funeral of a police commander, who had died of a heart attack, on Monday night. The country’s interior ministry said that another 68 were wounded. The bomb was placed in a cart at a local market and remotely detonated, Adil Haidari, spokesperson for the provincial police chief told Al Jazeera.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack at the funeral. However, it is unclear who carried out the attack on the hospital. The Taliban denied any involvement in the attacks.
India, US condemn Kabul attack
India on Tuesday strongly condemned the attacks, calling them “barbaric” acts against innocent people. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said the “reprehensible” attacks, including on mothers, newborns, nurses and mourning families are appalling and constitute crimes against humanity.
It said there can be no justification for such continued acts of terrorism, asserting that the perpetrators of such heinous acts and their sponsors should be held accountable and brought to justice. “They should be forced to eradicate safe havens and sanctuaries that have abetted terrorism in the region for decades and caused immense miseries to untold number of people in the region,”it added. ““We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish speedy recovery to those injured.”
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attack on the hospital “sheer evil” and an “unconscionable assault”, The Guardian reported. In a statement he urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to co-operate 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.
Human rights group Amnesty International condemned both the attacks. “The unconscionable war crimes in Afghanistan today, targeting a maternity hospital and a funeral, must awaken the world to the horrors civilians continue to face,” the group tweeted. “There must be accountability for these grave crimes.”
Countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey and Pakistan released statements condemning the violence.