Gunmen stormed a maternity hospital in the western part of Kabul on Tuesday, setting off a shootout with the police and killing four people as Afghan forces carried out newborn babies and their mothers to evacuate the facility under fire, officials said.
The day’s spasm of violence extended beyond the Afghan capital. A suicide bomber in eastern Nangarhar province – a hotbed of the Islamic State group, targeted a funeral ceremony, killing 15 people and wounding at least 40. Also Tuesday, a bomb planted in a cart in a market in eastern Khost province killed a child and wounded 10 people.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul, where both the Taliban and the IS frequently target Afghan military and security forces, as well as civilians. The Taliban later denied they were involved.
The violence could further undermine a peace process in the wake of a deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February, which envisages the start of talks among key Afghan figures, including government representatives, and the Taliban.
Black smoke rose into the sky over the hospital in Kabul’s Dashti Barchi, a mostly Shiite neighborhood that has been the site of many past attacks by Islamic State militants. Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said that over 80 women and babies were evacuated by Afghan security forces as the firefight got underway. Along with the four killed, at least five people were reported wounded.
Photos shared by the ministry show newborn babies and their mothers being carried out of the hospital.
“The forces are trying to eliminate the terrorists and bring the situation under control,” said Arian. He later added that at least one of the attackers was shot dead.
By mid-afternoon, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying three attackers had stormed the hospital and that one was shot and killed while the other two were still resisting the Afghan forces. The first floor of the clinic was cleared by the police but the operation was ongoing to secure the rest of the building, the statement said.
It was unclear why the maternity hospital in Dashti Barchi, a 100-bed facility, was targeted.
In the attack in the eastern Nangarhar province, Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the suicide bomber targeted a funeral ceremony in Khewa district for a local pro-government militia commander and former warlord who had died of a heart attack on Monday night.
The bomber struck as mourners gathered, killing at least 15 people and wounding 40, Khogyani said. He added that the dead included Abdullah Lala Jan, a provincial council member, while his father Noor Agha, a lawmaker, was wounded in the attack.
According to Zabihullah Zemarai, another provincial council member, dozens of people, including, lawmakers, provincial council members and locals had gathered for the funeral of Shaikh Akram, the militia commander. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that the Taliban were not involved in the Nangarhar attack.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost that killed a child and wounded 10 people. The bomb was placed in a cart at a local market and remotely detonated, said Adil Haidari, spokesman for the provincial police chief.
The IS, meanwhile, claimed it was behind a spate of attacks on Monday in Kabul when four bombs, one placed under a garbage bin and the other three by the roadside, went off in the northern part of the city, wounding four civilians, including a child.
The Afghan intelligence service said in a statement later Monday that the agency has arrested an IS leader in the region, Zia-ul Haq, also known as Shaikh Abu Omer Al-Khorasani.