Women and children among killed as maternity ward is hit

A bomb at an Afghan hospital on Saturday killed at least 20 people including women and children, days after U.S. President Barack Obama said 10,000 U.S. forces would leave the country this year.

The brazen suicide car bombing in Logar province, about 75 km south of the capital Kabul, also wounded over 20 people and officials warned the death toll could still rise.

It was condemned “in the strongest terms” by the United Nations, which said the hospital's maternity ward was badly damaged in the attack and many of the victims were women and children.

Underlining the confusion and chaos at the site, the Ministry of Public Health initially put the death toll at 60 but later corrected its own figures.

An eyewitness described horrific scenes of victims on fire and body parts scattered in all directions following the blast in the remote district of Azra, close to the border with Pakistan.

The Taliban denied it was behind the attack, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying: “We condemn this attack on a hospital... whoever has done this wants to defame the Taliban.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as “savage and ignorant” in a statement released by his office.

It came as Mr. Karzai told a counterterrorism summit in Tehran that militancy was on the rise in both his country and the region. “Not only has Afghanistan not yet achieved peace and security but terrorism is expanding and threatening more than ever Afghanistan and the region,” he told the opening session.

The two-day summit is being attended by the heads of state of six regional countries, including Afghan neighbours Iran and Pakistan.

The blast in Logar is the second major attack in Afghanistan in two days.

On Friday, 10 people were killed by a bicycle bomb which went off in a busy bazaar in Khad Abad district of the northern province of Kunduz.

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