Pompeo urges Kabul and Taliban co-operation after 'appalling' attack

The death toll from the attack reached 24 on Wednesday

Powered by automated translation

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged the Afghan government and Taliban to co-operate after deadly attacks on a maternity hospital and a funeral hurt prospects of ending the war.

Mr Pompeo called the twin assaults appalling but said the Taliban, who signed a February 29 accord with the US in his presence in Qatar, denied carrying them out.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the two horrific terrorist attacks in Afghanistan today,” he said.

“During the holy month of Ramadan and amid the threat of Covid-19, these dual attacks are particularly appalling.

"We note the Taliban have denied any responsibility and condemned both attacks as heinous.”

Mr Pompeo urged the Taliban and the Afghan government to co-operate to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pauses while speaking at a news conference at the State Department on April 29, 2020, in Washington,DC. / AFP / POOL / Andrew Harnik
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking at a news conference at the State Department on April 29, 2020, in Washington,DC.  AFP 

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the police officer's funeral in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 24 people.

The group did not acknowledge the raid on the hospital in Kabul that killed a  further 24 people, including nurses and two newborn babies. Sixteen people were wounded.

Of those evacuated, 21 newborn babies were initially brought to Kabul’s Ataturk Hospital where physician Sayed Fared said their staff were providing medical care.

"One newborn baby had a fractured bone and we referred that baby to the Indira Gandhi Children's hospital," he told The Associated Press. "The other 20 babies are hospitalised here and are in good health and under our observation."

Mr Pompeo called the hospital attack “an act of sheer evil”.

A host of nations and aid groups condemned the Medecins sans Frontieres-run maternity hospital attack.

"I'm shocked and saddened by the horrific attack on a hospital that was providing care and support to mothers and babies in Kabul," said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

"My thoughts go out to the families of all those who lost their lives today and to our MSF colleagues during this difficult time. The recent spike in violence in Afghanistan is unacceptable," she added.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was difficult to find words to express the "horrors" of the attack.

"To target and kill mothers, newly born babies and nurses, as well as bereaved and mourning families, are acts of evil and show an appalling degree of inhumanity," he said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump has been looking to end America's longest war and began pulling troops after the accord with the Taliban, who agreed to reduce violence and not target western forces.

But they have kept attacking Afghan troops and in response, President Ashraf Ghani ordered security forces to resume operations against the Taliban and other militants.

The forces of the internationally backed government had previously been reacting only defensively to Taliban attacks.

Shortly after the attacks, Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib said "there seems little point in continuing to engage Taliban in peace talks".

The recent violence could further undermine the peace process after the signing of the deal, which includes the start of talks among key Afghan figures, including government representatives, and the Taliban.

Near-daily attacks have also left Afghan authorities ill-prepared to face the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 4,900 people in the country and killed at least 127.

The US military said it would keep observing its truce with the Taliban.

"The US military will continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack our partners," said Lt Col Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman.

"This is going to be a windy, bumpy road but a political agreement is the best way to end the war," he said, quoting a recent statement by Defence Secretary Mark Esper.