The Secretary of State’s comments show that he takes the safety and security threats facing our country seriously. The international community cannot tolerate any form or violence, especially when it targets innocent children as well! We must stand united against theseCowards who try to wipe out everything we hold dear: freedom, democracy – human rights.»

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned a militant attack on a maternity ward in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Two babies and 12 mothers and nurses were killed when several gunmen stormed the hospital on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, a bombing at a funeral killed at least 26 people.

Mr Pompeo said: «Any attack on innocents is unforgiveable, but to attack infants and women in labour… is an act of sheer evil.»

«Terrorists who attack mourners lining up for prayer at a funeral are only seeking to tear apart the bonds that hold families and communities together, but they will never succeed.»

He added: «During the holy month of Ramadan and amidst the threat of Covid-19, these dual attacks are particularly appalling.»

In 2017, IS gunmen disguised as medical staff attacked Kabul’s main military hospital, prompting widespread shock and anger and raising questions about security. The authorities later confirmed about 50 people had been killed.

But the Taliban also attack hospitals. Last September, 20 people died after a truck packed with explosives was detonated by militants from the group outside a hospital in southern Zabul province.

On TV, Mr Ghani said: «In order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I’m ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defence mode to an offensive one and to resume their operations against the enemies.»

Even in a country which has seen the worst of the worst, this savage attack on newborn babies and their mothers has shocked, and shaken fragile hope this would be the year Afghanistan would finally start to turn towards peace.

Images of special forces in bulky body armour, carrying infants to safety, will remain long in the memory of those who have repeatedly called for a ceasefire – especially when Afghans are battling another deadly enemy in Covid-19.

Despite Taliban denials that this ghastly attack was their work, President Ghani’s denunciation reflects the anger and frustration of many. Some worry that groups like Islamic State, trying to drive an even greater wedge between Taliban and the government, have also killed for now what were slow uncertain steps toward peace talks.

And for those who have never trusted the Taliban’s commitment, this latest attack solidifies their resolve to keep fighting.


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