Contrary to US claim, Afghanistan says Taliban carried out Kabul hospital raid

Afghan officials have dismissed US assertion that a deadly attack on a maternity hospital in the capital Kabul earlier this week was carried out by the Daesh terrorist group, blaming the Taliban for the carnage.

“Neither the Taliban hands nor their stained consciousness can be washed of the blood of women, babies & other innocent in the latest senseless carnage,” Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Twitter on Friday.

Saleh, a former intelligence chief, said earlier some people were “naive” for accepting Taliban lies and blaming the “fictional” Daesh faction in Afghanistan for the attack.

Three gunmen attacked a maternity hospital that houses a unit run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Tuesday, setting off an hours-long shootout with police. Afghanistan’s Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh said on Wednesday that the attack left at least 24 people dead and 16 others injured.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack on the hospital, which lies in the neighborhood of Dashti Barchi, home to Shia Hazara community, but the Taliban, who struck a deal with the United States in February, has rejected any involvement.

US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said the attack was carried out by Daesh terrorists, adding they opposed any Taliban deal and sought to trigger an Iraq-style war in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban-US deal signed in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, Washington is compelled to pull out American forces and foreign troops from Afghanistan by July next year, provided that the militants start talks with Kabul and adhere to other security guarantees.

About 12,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries remain stationed in Afghanistan years after the US-led invasion of the country that toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.

A senior Afghan government official, who declined to be identified, said the patterns of recent attacks showed the involvement of the Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network.

The official questioned Khalilzad’s assessment as “premature” and emphasized that all the evidence suggested it was not the Daesh Takfiri group that carried out the raid on the hospital.

Daesh has been securing a foothold in Afghanistan ever since it was flushed out of its former Middle East bastions. The US has been largely blamed for relocating remnants of the terrorist group to the South Asian country following their defeat in Iraq and Syria.

However, the Taliban condemned the Kabul attack and said the Afghan government had attempted to pin the blame on them “without any expert investigation.”

A spokesman for the group urged a “transparent and impartial investigation” to find the perpetrators.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the country’s military to switch to offensive mode from a defensive one in the wake of the latest bout of bloodshed in the war-ravaged country.

During an online news conference in Geneva on Wednesday, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “shocked and appalled” by the fatal attack, calling for a global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.