An Afghan baby cries while a doctor dresses her wounds at a hospital which came under attack yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan May 13, 2020

The violence that terror groups unleashed at a maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul on Tuesday is a crime of utmost savagery, one that merits investigation and punishment as a crime against humanity. At least 24 people were killed and several more injured when heavily-armed terrorists stormed the hospital, carried out a suicide bombing and then went on a shooting spree inside the maternity ward. Among the dead were two new-born babies and 12 new mothers as well as nurses. Many of the injured were children.

Even by the grim standards of the unspeakable violence that Afghanistan has suffered for decades, the attack on new-born babies and their mothers at the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital was horrifying. The hospital is in a Hazara-Shia neighbourhood. The two main suspect groups, the Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the IS’ Afghan affiliate, have a long record of slaughtering Shias. No ideology or grievance can justify killing of unarmed civilians, much less just-born babies. Scenes of mothers cradling their infants, their bullet-ridden dead bodies lying strewn on the hospital floor and of infants in blood-soaked blankets being rushed into ambulances will traumatise Afghans for decades to come. Both the Taliban and the ISKP have targeted hospitals with increasing frequency since 2014.

Just hours before the massacre at the hospital, an ISKP suicide bombing at a funeral of a former police commander in Khewa district in Nangarhar province left over 40 people dead. The ISKP said it targeted the funeral as many police personnel and militia commanders were expected to be present. The continuing targeting of civilians and police forces by the Taliban and the ISKP and the escalation of violence in recent months is all the more reprehensible as Afghanistan, like the rest of the world, is struggling against the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a country with fragile health infrastructure. Terror groups are worsening the situation by targeting hospitals and healthcare personnel. The goal of the Taliban and the ISKP is to establish an Islamic state. How are they furthering Islamic principles and values by slaughtering Muslims during the Ramzan month? How does the killing of helpless children further their cause?

The Afghan government has been offering the Taliban a ceasefire, especially during the Ramzan month. If the Taliban is indeed a defender of the faith, the least it could have done is reciprocate the offer and halt the killing of civilians. With their accelerated violence during the Ramzan period, the Taliban and ISKP have only underscored their degenerate ideology and behaviour.