Attacks on Afghan Maternity Clinic and Funeral Ceremony Leave Dozens Dead

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans woke to another deadly day on Tuesday, with gunmen storming a maternity clinic in the capital and a suicide bomber wreaking havoc at a funeral in the eastern province of Nangarhar, together leaving at least 40 people dead and more than 80 wounded.

The attack in Kabul, the capital, targeted a 100-bed hospital in the city’s west, a largely Shiite area. The hospital is known for its large maternity ward, and special forces were seen rescuing newborn babies during the fighting.

The Interior Ministry declared the attack over and the three assailants dead after about five hours of fighting. The country’s health ministry said the attack had killed “15 mothers and their newborn babies” and wounded 16 others, but local elders suggested the fatalities could be higher. Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that about 100 people had been rescued.

Crowds had gathered outside the hospital and emotions ran high as they saw babies soaked in blood being rescued. The relatives of one woman who had given birth at dawn were trying to get news, her brother wailing and twisting in pain.

A community elder came out of the hospital with a list of a dozen newborns who had been evacuated to other hospitals. As he read the names of their mothers and the names of the hospitals the babies had been sent to, a man from the anxious crowd asked about the mothers.

“Fifteen martyred mothers, their bodies are in the ambulances being evacuated now. We put them in body bags,” said Abdul Hadi, the local community elder. “I recognized the babies from the names written on the tape on their stomachs.”

The bombing in Nangarhar Province targeted the funeral of a local police commander, who had died of natural causes. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives just as people were lining up for the final prayer, provincial officials said.

Shahmahmood Miakhel, the governor of Nangarhar, said at least 25 people were killed and 68 wounded.

No group has claimed either of the attacks. The Taliban, in a statement, denied that they were behind the Kabul hospital assault.

The attacks come as the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across Afghanistan, threatening to overwhelm the country’s medical facilities.

Wahid Majrooh, the deputy minister of health, said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had risen to nearly 5,000. But testing capacity is extremely limited, and officials have warned that the true numbers are certain to be much higher.

“Today, my doctor, my medical personnel, the poor mother who is in labor are left in chaos — the doctor that is there to rescue her is covered in blood and falls next to her bed,” said Mr. Majrooh.

Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Kabul, and Zabihullah Ghazi from Jalalabad.

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