Gunmen disguised as police attacked a hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, killing 16 people including two newborn babies from a maternity clinic run by the international organisation Doctors Without Borders.
In a separate attack the same day, a suicide bomber struck the funeral of a police commander, attended by government officials and a member of parliament, in the eastern province of Nangahar, killing at least 24 people and injuring 68. Authorities said that the toll could rise.
Islamic State Khorasan, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the Nangarhar bombing, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Kabul attack. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s main Islamist insurgency group which says it has halted attacks on cities under a U.S. troop withdrawal deal, denied involvement in both.
The Islamic State militant group operates in Nangarhar and has carried out a number of high-profile attacks in Kabul. Recently. On Monday security forces arrested its regional leader.
The violence, in the midst of the battles against the coronavirus pandemic, risks derailing movement towards U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Taliban and an Afghan government long sceptical of the insurgents’ renunciation of attacks.
In a statement, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, condemned 'the two horrific terrorist attacks' in the strongest terms, noted the Taliban had denied responsibility and said the lack of a peace deal left the country vulnerable to such attacks.
Mr. Pompeo also described the stalled peace effort, which planned for intra-Afghan peace talks to begin on March 10 but have yet to occur, as 'a critical opportunity for Afghans to ... build a united front against the menace of terrorism.'