Attack on Kabul maternity ward a 'war crime': HRW

Deadly attack on Kabul maternity ward a 'war crime', says HRW
2 min read
13 May, 2020
Human Rights Watch has called for an end to violence in Afghanistan's capital following an attack on a maternity ward which killed at least 14 people.
Afghan security forces inspect the scene after gunmen attack MSF clinic [Getty]

A suspected attack by the Taliban on a maternity clinic in Kabul has drawn widespread condemnation, with a rights group calling on it to be designated a war crime.

The shocking daylight assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul on Tuesday killed at least 14 people including infants and nurses. It was followed by a blast at a funeral in the country's restive east, leaving 24 mourners dead.

More than 80 patients, including children, were evacuated from the hospital.

President Ashraf Ghani blamed both attacks on the Taliban and Islamic State group, ordering Afghan troops to "return to offensive postures, and resume their operations against the enemy" as the crisis deepens in the country.

Human Rights Watch described the attack on the hospital, which is supported by medical charity Medecins San Frontieres, a war crime.

“An attack on a maternity clinic is simply unspeakable,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Right Watch.

“This attack is the latest incident of an armed group in Afghanistan targeting patients, healthcare workers, and medical facilities.”

Deliberate attacks on health care in Afghanistan have increased sharply since 2017.

Insurgents, including both affiliates of IS and the Taliban, have been responsible for many of these incidents, although the Afghan national security forces have also raided clinics, killing and assaulting medical workers and patients.

“Those paying the price when armed groups attack medical facilities are not just the patients and medical staff but all Afghans, including children, who are denied essential care when hospitals cannot function,” Gossman said.

“In the midst of a pandemic, Afghanistan needs its medical facilities more than ever,” she added.

The Taliban denied involvement in Tuesday's attacks, warning it was "fully prepared" to counter any strikes by Afghan forces.

"From now onwards the responsibility of further escalation of violence and its ramifications shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the Kabul administration," it said in a statement early on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Afghan government and the militant group to ensure that the peace process succeeds.

"The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice," Pompeo said in a statement.

The US Special Representative to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalizad, further pushed the two sides to work towards peace.

"Failure to do so leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to terrorism, perpetual instability and economic hardship," Khalilzad said on Twitter.

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