Conflicts & War

US says Islamic State behind Afghan attacks that jeopardized peace process

Kabul, May 15 (efe-epa).- The United States’ special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalizad on Friday alleged that the Islamic State militant group was behind the two “horrific” attacks in Afghanistan earlier this week and urged the government in Kabul to not let it derail the peace process with the Taliban.

In a series of tweets, Khalilzad said Afghans should fight a joint battle to eliminate the terror unleashed by the IS in the country.

His appeal came two days after the Afghan government blamed the Taliban for the two separate attacks on Tuesday that killed 56 people at a maternity clinic in Kabul and a funeral ceremony in Nangarhar province.

“The USG (US government) has assessed that ISIS-K (Islamic State in Khorasan) conducted the horrific attacks on a maternity ward and a funeral earlier this week in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.

He said the global militant network was “a threat” to the Afghan people and the world, having “demonstrated a pattern for favoring these types of heinous attacks against civilians”.

Khalilzad, who has presided over the US peace process in Afghanistan and led its team of negotiators for talks with the Taliban, said the ISIS-K has been trying to foment sectarian war in Afghanistan the way it did in Iraq and Syria.

“ISIS-K,” he said, “also opposes a peace agreement between Afghanistan and the Taliban.”

“Rather than falling into the ISIS trap and delay peace or create obstacles, Afghans must come together to crush this menace and pursue a historic peace opportunity. No more excuses. Afghans, and the world, deserve better.”

The attacks dealt a blow to an already shaky peace process that was supposed to pave the way for talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

After the two attacks, President Ashraf Ghani ordered the Afghan military to launch an offensive against the Taliban and other militant groups since the insurgents have ignored repeated calls to reduce violence, as agreed in the peace pact with the US.

However, the Taliban have denied they were responsible for the attacks.

The militant group “strongly condemned both attacks and clarified that these attacks were the work of criminal and malicious elements who are seeking to attain their malicious objectives by killing defenseless human beings,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Friday.

“The Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban refer to itself) once again clarifies that it had no hand in the (hospital attack), considers it a vile, inhumane, and un-Islamic act.”

Mujahid said the hospital attack was “the work of malicious elements directly affiliated with the Kabul administration.”

The attack on the maternity clinic in a hospital run by global medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of the capital left 24 people dead and at least 20 more injured, sparking widespread condemnations.

MSF said it was a “deliberate assault on a maternity hospital (to kill) mothers in cold blood”.

“I went back the day after the attack and what I saw in the maternity hospital demonstrates it was a systematic shooting of the mothers,” Frederic Bonnot, MSF’s head of programs in Afghanistan.

“This country is sadly used to seeing horrific events,” said Bonnot in a statement on Thursday. “But what happened Tuesday is beyond words.” EFE-EPA

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