35 killed in Afghanistan blast at hospital
In one of the largest attacks on civilians in Afghanistan this year, a suicide car bomber blew himself up next to a hospital in central Logar province on Saturday, killing 35 and injuring dozens other, officials said.
The explosion in Azra district took place near a public hospital, said Din Mohammad Darwish, the spokesman for the provincial governor, dpa reported.
The hospital was destroyed. Many of the victims were buried under the building's rubble, Darwish said.
"The final report that we got from our delegation who went to the blast site said 35 people were killed and 23 others were wounded."
Meanwhile, an Afghan Interior Ministry official said the number of dead stands at 20.
"According to our reports, 20 people were killed," Sediq Sidiqi, Interior Ministry spokesman said. "The reason we have low casualty figure is because a lot of people were injured and we are still trying to verify the number of people that were killed.
"The terrorists have attacked innocent Afghan civilians and, sadly, this is one of the largest attacks in recent weeks," Sediqi said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a statement condemned the suicide bombing and called it the work of the "barbaric and ignorant enemies of Afghanistan."
In his statement, Karzai said that dozens of people had died and more that 40 people had been wounded in the incident.
Most of the dead were women and children, he said. The explosion's force was focused on a wing of the hospital used to treat children.
The Taliban denied involvement in the bombing.
"We have begun an investigation to find out who was behind it," spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said from an undisclosed location via telephone.
"Foreign spy agencies may have caused this attack trying to defame the Taliban and movement," he said, without elaborating who the foreign spy agencies could be.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force also condemned the attack, saying it will work together with its Afghan partners to find those responsible and bring them to justice.
"The insurgents have a complete disregard for the innocent people of Afghanistan who are trying to live in peace," said Vic Beck, ISAF director of public affairs.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called the act "despicable."
"Attacks on hospitals are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law," UNAMA said in a statement, adding all anti-government elements - a term used by the UN to describe Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan - have "clear responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and not to attack them.
"This is a despicable attack against civilians who were seeking medical care, as well as visiting family members and health workers," said Staffan de Mistura, the special representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan.
The attack came a day after a bicycle bomb that left 10 people dead in the northern province of Kunduz.
Afghan civilians have been the main victims of the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan. Last month was the deadliest month for the war-weary civilian population of Afghanistan.
More than 360 civilians were killed in May, with 82 percent of the fatalities caused by the insurgents, according to United Nations.