Security

Taliban further undermines peace deal with suicide bombing in Paktia

Salaam Times and AFP

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Afghan security personnel inspect the site of a Taliban attack in Gardez, Paktia Province, May 14. [STR/AFP]

KHOST -- A Taliban suicide bombing of an Afghan National Army base in Paktia Province Thursday (May 14) killed at least five civilians and wounded 24 others, according to Afghan officials.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a WhatsApp message to reporters took responsibility.

The Taliban, who frequently exaggerate claims, said "tens of soldiers were killed and wounded" and denied reports that any civilians died.

The suicide bomber detonated the explosive-laden truck before reaching the base, said the Defence Ministry.

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A woman sits next to newborn babies who lost their mothers following a suicide attack in a maternity hospital in Kabul on May 13. [STR/AFP]

The latest attack comes after a particularly violent week that saw President Ashraf Ghani rescind the government's recent "defensive" stance aimed at promoting peace talks with the Taliban and order troops back onto the offensive.

'Heinous and cowardly'

On Tuesday (May 12), gunmen stormed a hospital in Kabul, killing at least 24 people, including infants and nurses.

It was followed shortly after by a suicide bombing at a funeral in Nangarhar Province that killed 32 mourners.

The massacres triggered international outrage as images emerged of dead mothers and babies wrapped in blood-soaked blankets.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the "heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks".

"Deliberately targeting infants, children, mothers and health workers as such is especially abhorrent," it said in a statement.

The maternity wing of the Kabul hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which later revealed a mother had given birth during the prolonged attack.

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Wednesday (May 13) said he was "shocked and appalled" by the deadly attack on the maternity hospital in Afghanistan.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a minute of silence in memory of those killed during a virtual press conference at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

"I was shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of nurses, mothers and babies," Tedros said.

"Civilians and health workers should never be a target," he added.

"We need peace for health and health for peace. And we need it now. In the time of a global pandemic, I urge all stakeholders to put aside politics and prioritise peace, a global ceasefire and ending this pandemic together," Tedros said.

Peace deal in question

Ghani's government blamed the attacks on the Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) militants and ordered troops to resume offensive operations.

The Taliban, which denied involvement in the bombings, later warned they were "fully prepared" to counter any strikes.

The recent events have threatened an already fragile peace process.

In February, Washington and the Taliban agreed to a deal that called for all foreign forces to leave the country over the next year in return for security assurances from the insurgents.

"The Afghan government is right to feel frustrated and see no peaceful intentions from the Taliban amid their intensified attacks," Afghan political commentator Sayed Naser Musawi told AFP before the May 14 attack.

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The only protectors of the Afghan people and the only hope of this nation are the security and defense forces.

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Taliban do not believe in peace; they grew up in war. Their thought and mentality is war, destruction, and killing; therefore, people should not expect peace from this group.

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