KABUL: Gunmen disguised as police attacked a hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, killing 16 people including two newborn babies from a maternity clinic run by the international humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders.
In a separate attack the same day, a suicide bomber struck the funeral of a police commander, attended by government officials and a member of parliament, in the eastern province of Nangahar, killing at least 24 people and injuring 68.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Kabul attack. Afghan Taliban which said it has halted attacks on cities under a US troop withdrawal deal denied involvement in both.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior photos showed two young children lying dead inside the hospital. An image showed a woman who had been killed lying on the ground still holding tightly to her baby, who survived and was moved to an intensive care unit at another hospital.
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President Ashraf Ghani 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 order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I am ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defence mode to an offensive one and to start their operations against the enemies,” he said in a televised speech.
The Kabul attack began in the morning when at least three gunmen wearing police uniforms entered the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, throwing grenades and shooting, government officials said. Security forces had killed the attackers by the afternoon.
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In the evening hours, husbands, fathers and family members of the hospital’s patients gathered around the hospital, desperate for news of their loved ones, while a man read out the names of those who had been evacuated to other hospitals.
The neighbourhood is home to many members of the Hazara community that has been attacked by ISIL in the past, including at a Kabul ceremony commemorating the death of one of its leaders in March.
The 100-bed government-run hospital hosted a maternity clinic run by Doctors Without Borders. Afghan Interior and health ministry officials said mothers, nurses and children were among the dead and wounded.
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Soldiers carried infants out of the compound, some wrapped in blood-stained blankets, and officials said 100 people were rescued, including three foreigners. Countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey and Pakistan released statements condemning the violence.
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.”
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