Afghan attack: Mothers, newborns killed in siege at Kabul maternity ward

The same day, a suicide bombing at a police officer’s funeral in Nangahar province left 24 dead and 68 wounded, according to the provincial governor’s office.

The attacks come amid a surge in violence in Afghanistan, nearly three months after the United States and the Taliban signed a landmark peace deal. The Taliban denied responsibility for both attacks, and the shooting in Kabul echoes earlier attacks on Afghan minority groups carried out by the Islamic State.

The future of armed groups such as the Islamic State in Afghanistan was a critical element of negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in the lead-up to the signing of the agreement in February. U.S. negotiators demanded assurances from the Taliban that terrorist organizations with aims of attacking the West would not be allowed to operate in territory under their control.

The Taliban has stepped up its own attacks on Afghan security forces in recent weeks, a tactic that the militant group says is within the bounds of the agreement with the United States but which has angered Afghan leaders and sparked condemnation from American officials.

In response to Tuesday’s violence, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered Afghan forces to resume attacks on the Taliban, switching from “active defensive” footing to “offensive” mode — in a move that could further jeopardize the peace deal.

The hospital attack is just the latest deadly shooting targeting minority groups in Kabul. The hospital is in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood, where the Islamic State has concentrated attacks in the past. In March, shooters killed 25 at an ethnic Hazara and Shiite gathering, and later that month, gunmen stormed a Sikh temple, killing 32.

Afghan security forces battled for nearly four hours to clear the site and kill the attackers. More than 100 patients, family members, doctors and nurses were evacuated from the hospital during the attack.

An obstetrician at the hospital said she ran toward a safe room with a nurse and a wounded woman when she heard the gunfire and explosion. Once inside, she began to treat the woman while gunfire rang through the hospital halls.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Aryan called the attack a “crime against all values.” He added, “Any groups that are involved in such attacks are against all human and Islamic values.”

The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, Shaharzad Akbar, condemned the brutality of an attack targeting newborns. She wrote in a tweet, “Among their first experiences [is] being targeted in a war they & their mothers had no part in.”

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