On Tuesday morning, two babies and 12 mothers and nurses were killed in a militant attack on a hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Fifteen others, including several children, were injured in the attack on several gunmen, officials said.
Meanwhile, in the east, a bombing during a funeral killed at least 24 people.
Following the attacks, President Ashraf Ghani has declared that he will order the resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban and other groups.
He accused activists of ignoring repeated calls for a reduction in violence.
The Islamic State (IS) group said it was behind the attack on the funeral of a police commander in Nangarhar, in the east of the country. It remains unclear who attacked the hospital and the Taliban have denied involvement.
A maternity hospital is run by the international medical association Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and some of those who work there are foreigners.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attack on the hospital “pure evil” and “unreasonable assault”. In a statement, he urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to cooperate to “bring the culprits to justice”.
What happened in the hospital?
The attack began around 10:00 am (05:30 GMT), and residents said they heard two explosions and then gunshots. A doctor who fled during the attack told the BBC that about 140 people were in the hospital when the gunmen attacked.
Another doctor told AFP news agency that “total panic” had set in at the time of the attack.
Ramazan Ali, a vendor who saw the attack begin, told the Reuters news agency: “The assailants shot anyone at this hospital for no reason … It is a government hospital, and many people bring their wives and their children for treatment. . ”
Afghan special forces rescued 100 women and children, including three foreigners, an official told the BBC. The attackers, who were allegedly allowed to dress like police, were all killed by security personnel after a battle lasting several hours.
Images from the scene showed soldiers carrying a newborn baby safely wrapped in a bloodstained blanket.
Many foreign workers live in a guest house behind the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, and a doctor who fled the building told the BBC that he had also seen an explosion there.
In the past, similar attacks in this predominantly Shia area of the capital have been attributed to IS. The leader of the group in South Asia and the Far East was arrested on Tuesday in Kabul, along with two other high-level members, the Afghan intelligence services said.
In 2017, ISIS gunmen disguised as medical personnel attacked Kabul’s main military hospital, causing widespread shock and anger and raising questions about security. Authorities later confirmed that around 50 people had been killed.
But the Taliban are also attacking hospitals. Last September, 20 people died after a truckload of explosives exploded by group activists outside a hospital in southern Zabul province.
On television, Mr. Ghani said, “In order to ensure the security of public places and to thwart the attacks and threats of the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I order the Afghan security forces to move from one active defense mode to an offensive mode and resume operations against enemies. ”
A fragile hope shaken
Even in a country that has experienced the worst of the worst, this savage attack on newborns and their mothers has shocked and shaken the fragile hope that this will be the year that Afghanistan finally begins to turn to peace.
The images of special forces in body armor, carrying babies safely, will long be remembered by those who have repeatedly called for a ceasefire – especially when the Afghans fight another deadly enemy in Covid- 19.
Although the Taliban deny that this horrific attack was their job, the denunciation of President Ghani reflects the anger and frustration of many. Some fear that groups like ISIS, which are trying to widen an even wider gap between the Taliban and the government, have also killed slow and uncertain steps toward peace talks for the time being.
And for those who have never trusted the Taliban’s engagement, this latest attack strengthens their determination to continue fighting.
What happened at the funeral?
Survivors said thousands of people gathered for the funeral of the local police commander, and the bomb exploded halfway. Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor, said 68 people had been injured.
A member of the provincial council was among the 24 killed at least.
Tuesday’s attacks have been widely condemned by countries around the world and human rights groups, Amnesty International saying: “The unacceptable war crimes in Afghanistan today … must wake up the world of the horrors in which civilians continue to to face “.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Twitter said: “I am horrified by the appalling terrorist attacks in Afghanistan today – including against motherhood. Targeting mothers, their newborns and medical staff is despicable. “
Meanwhile, in northern Balkh province, at least 10 people were killed and many more injured in an air strike by US forces, reports said. Residents and the Taliban said the victims were all civilians, but the Afghan Defense Ministry said all of those killed were militants.
What is happening with the peace talks in Afghanistan?
Since a troop withdrawal agreement was signed in February between the U.S. and the Taliban, talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have broken down over a prisoner swap, and violence has continued tirelessly.
The deal was aimed at ending more than 18 years of war since US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power following the September 11 attacks on the United States, including the brain of Osama bin Laden had been sanctified by the extremist Islamist group.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict. Many others have been injured or displaced from their homes.