Ready to retaliate if government resumes strikes: Taliban

Toll in hospital attack rises to 56.

May 13, 2020 10:40 pm | Updated 10:40 pm IST

A policeman on guard outside the Kabul hospital.

A policeman on guard outside the Kabul hospital.

The Taliban warned on Wednesday that it was ready to fight back after Afghan forces were ordered to resume strikes in response to a series of deadly attacks, further unravelling a fragile peace process.

A brazen daylight assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul on Tuesday — which killed at least 24 people including infants and nurses — was followed by a blast at a funeral in the country’s restive east, leaving 24 mourners dead. On Wednesday, health officials said the combined toll from the two attacks has risen to 56.

Attackers killed

Three gunmen stormed a Kabul maternity hospital Tuesday as parents brought infants and children for appointments. The attackers were eventually killed in a lengthy clearance operation during which heavily armed Afghan security forces carried babies from the scene.

President Ashraf Ghani blamed both attacks on the Taliban and Islamic State (IS), ordering Afghan troops to “resume their operations against the enemy”. But the Taliban, which denied involvement in Tuesday’s attacks, warned that 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. The aggressive posturing from both sides raises fresh questions about the fate of a peace process that is teetering just as Afghanistan grapples with a public health crisis.

The authorities dismissed the Taliban’s warning, saying the group had always indulged in “violence and war”. The Taliban has not claimed any major attacks in Kabul and other cities since the deal was signed. It has, however, regularly targeted Afghan forces in provinces.

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