The death toll from an attack at a maternity hospital in Kabul has risen to 24, including new mothers, nurses and newborn babies, Afghanistan’s health ministry said Wednesday.
Gunmen on Tuesday stormed the 100-bed hospital in an attack that set off an hourslong shootout with police. Local security forces have said they rescued about 100 women and children from the scene.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack that injured at least 16, but it has prompted widespread condemnation from the international community.
“This latest attack is deeply shocking and represents an outright violation of international humanitarian law,” Juan-Pedro Schaerer, the head of delegation in Afghanistan for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told The Washington Times in a statement.
“In a time when the already stretched health system in Afghanistan is battling the COVID-19 outbreak, this appalling attack not only has killed people seeking and providing healthcare, but it will also deprive the community of life-saving services in the future,” Mr. Schaerer said in the statement.
Afghanistan has reported 5,226 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, 132 deaths and 648 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. But experts have cautioned that the true numbers are much higher due to lack of testing resources and a fragile health care infrastructure. Afghanistan has a population of 31 million.
The Tuesday incident came more than two months after the U.S. and Taliban struck an “understanding” to decrease violence in Afghanistan that was expected to bring both sides closer to an agreement to end America’s longest war.
Since March 1, the Taliban has carried out roughly 55 attacks per day, according to the Afghan National Security Council. The Pentagon’s Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction last week said the significant uptick in March attacks was “above seasonal norms.”