After a wave of attacks across the country, the president has announced the resumption of offensive operations against terror groups. Afghan officials said the Taliban and its supporters "do not intend to pursue peace."
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday announced the end to a freeze on offensive operations against militant groups after a wave of deadly attacks across the country, including a maternity ward in the capital Kabul.
"In order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I am ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defense mode to an offensive one and to start their operations against the enemies," he said in a televised address.
Earlier on Tuesday, three armed men stormed a maternity clinic in the capital Kabul, killing 16 people, including two newborn babies and their mothers, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
More than 100 people were rescued as the militants barricaded themselves inside the building and attempted to repel Afghan forces. Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian described the attack as an "act against humanity and a war crime."
Deadly day elsewhere
Two other attacks struck Afghanistan on Tuesday.
In the eastern Nangarhar province, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a funeral. At least 24 people were killed, including a local politician, and 68 others injured.
In the western Farah province, two children were killed when they were struck by a mortar attack during an exchange of fire.
No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks. However, the Taliban and "Islamic State" militant groups regularly attack military and civilian targets alike.
The attacks came on the heels of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end the long-running conflict. The US and Taliban have already agreed to an initial phase towards peace. However, it is unclear how the militant group's latest operations will affect the process.
Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib warned that the latest spate of attacks "show us and the world that Taliban and their sponsors do not and did not intend to pursue peace."
"The Afghan government and our international partners have a responsibility to hold the Taliban and their sponsors accountable, said Mohib in a tweet. "The reason to pursue peace is to end this senseless violence. This is not peace, nor its beginnings."
'US condemns horrific attacks'
In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to take action to put an end to the attacks.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the two horrific attacks in Afghanistan," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We note the Taliban have denied any responsibility and condemned both attacks as heinous," the statement read. "The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice."
Pompeo also took to Twitter to call for cooperation in Afghanistan.
He tweeted: "The Afghan people deserve a future free from these egregious acts of evil and must come together to build a united front against the menace of terrorism."
ls, lc/jsi (dpa, Reuters)