Afghanistan: UN shocked and outraged over deadly attacks on maternity hospital and funeral

UNAMA/Freshta DuniaThe Pul-e-Kheshti Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. (file)    

Perpetrators behind two separate deadly attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday must be brought to justice, top UN officials have said.

At least 14 people were killed, including two newborn babies, when gunmen attacked a maternity hospital in the capital, Kabul, that morning.UNAMA News@UNAMAnews

UNAMA expresses shock and revulsion at today’s terrorist attacks at a #Kabul maternity hospital and a funeral in #Nangarhar, causing significant civilian casualties. UN in #Afghanistan calls for those responsible to face justice and offers condolences to victims and families.

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The incident occurred just hours after a suicide blast killed at least 24 people and wounded scores more at a funeral in Nangarhar, located in the east of the country.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the attacks and others in Balkh and Khost provinces. The UN chief also expressed concern over rising violence across the country.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Afghanistan,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“He reiterates that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and that hospitals, medical facilities and personnel have special protection under international humanitarian law. Those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.”

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) took to Twitter to express “shock and revulsion” over the attacks.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Toby Lanzer, was “outraged” by the assault on the Sad Bistar Hospital, a 100-bed facility, which was full of patients and medical staff when the assault took place.

“It beggars belief that such a heinous act could be committed when Afghanistan is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic”, he said in a statement.

“Civilians receiving care in hospitals, health workers, medical infrastructure and aid workers are protected under International Humanitarian Law; violations must be investigated and those behind the attacks brought to justice”.

The UN Security Council pointed out that the “heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks” took place during Ramadan, and that ISIL-K had claimed responsibility for the suicide blast in Nangarhar.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the 15 ambassadors said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“Deliberately targeting infants, children, mothers and health workers as such is especially abhorrent and must be condemned.”

Also on Wednesday: During his regular press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a minute of silence in honour of slain health workers, including those killed in the attack on the maternity hospital in Kabul.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for peace as the world battles the crisis.

“In the time of a global pandemic, I urge all stakeholders to put aside politics and prioritize peace, a global ceasefire and ending this pandemic together,” he said.