Death toll rises to 24 in attack on Afghan maternity hospital

Death toll rises to 24 in attack on Afghan maternity hospital
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The death toll from a militant attack on a maternity hospital in Afghanistan was raised to 24 Wednesday, according to The Associated Press

Militants attacked the hospital Tuesday, setting off a gunfight and a frantic rescue mission by Afghan security forces to escort mothers and their infants to safety. The clinic is in a mostly Shiite neighborhood of Kabul and is supported by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders. 

The Interior Ministry initially said that 16 people had been killed.

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Doctors Without Borders said it “condemns this senseless act of cowardly violence, which cost the lives of many people and deprived women and children in Kabul of a fundamental health care service, in a context where access to essential care is already limited.” 

“For now, still with so much uncertainty, every effort is being made by our medical team to follow up on the new-borns in the maternity hospital to ensure the best possible care to our patients and to those injured, to provide psychological care to affected staff, and to provide every necessary support to those bereaved,” the group added, noting that one woman gave birth during the attack. 

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban have said they are not behind the assault. The ISIS branch in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for attacks on Shiite areas in the past. 

The ISIS branch in the country has been weakened after a sustained campaign of bombing raids by the U.S., military operations by Afghan security forces and attacks by Taliban insurgents.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appeared to point the finger at the Taliban after Tuesday’s attack, urging the country’s forces to launch attacks on the insurgent group.

“The Taliban have not given up fighting and killing Afghans, instead they have increased their attacks on our countrymen and public places,” despite repeated calls for a cease-fire, Ghani said in a televised speech, according to AP.

The U.S. and the Taliban signed a peace deal earlier this year, though the group continues to launch attacks within Afghanistan.