Two newborn babies were amongst the dead in two attacks in Afghanistan on the morning of May 12. Gunmen stormed a hospital in Kabul that contained a maternity clinic, killing at least 16 people including the two newborns. Additionally, on the same morning, at least 24 people were killed during a suicide bomber attack at a funeral in Nangahar.
So far, it is unclear as to who carried out the attack on the hospital, but the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group have claimed responsibility for the attack on the funeral of a police commander. Despite the Taliban denying any involvement in either attack, the Afghan government has announced the resumption of their offensive operations against the Taliban and other groups. This has resulted in a rise in conflict in the region after reduced military activity had been initiated amid US-led peace talks expected to be conducted later this year.
After scenes of infants wrapped in blood-stained blankets in attacks targeting vulnerable children hours old and exhausted mothers, outrage and horror have swept the international community. Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, tweeted: “These newborns, among the first voices they heard, on the first day of their lives, was the sound of gunfire… and among their first experiences, being targeted in a war they and their mothers had no part in… will their lives, like ours, continue to be shaped by war?”
Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, announced the resumption of counter-Taliban operations in an address to the nation that evening. He said his forces would shift from the “active defence” position in place after US attempts to initiate peace talks in the hope of a ceasefire to help key workers fight the coronavirus pandemic. He said: “The Taliban have not given up fighting and killing Afghans, instead they have increased their attacks on our countrymen and public places”. It was hoped that peace talks could bring about progress towards an end to the civil war that has gripped Afghanistan for nearly two decades. However, these attacks appear to have faded such hopes. “The reason to pursue peace is to end this senseless violence. This is not peace, nor its beginnings”, tweeted Hamdullah Mobib, Ghani’s National Security Adviser. “If the Taliban cannot control the violence, or their sponsors have now subcontracted their terror to other entities… then there is little point in continuing to engage Taliban in ‘peace talks’”.
Though the Taliban deny involvement, they have not condemned the horrifying scenes of bloodshed at the Kabul hospital. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said the attacks were “appalling”, adding: “The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice. As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism”.
With the twin assaults occurring amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Afghanistan must now also mourn those who were killed in the attacks. Hopes for an end to the bloody Afghan civil war now look to have vanished and, with the appalling scenes on Tuesday morning, the world once again looks to Afghanistan with eyes of heartbreak and grief.