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Bomb kills up to five prison doctors and health staff in Afghan capital

Up to five doctors and health staff working at a high-security Afghan prison holding Taliban inmates were killed on their way to work when a bomb was placed on their car.

The assassination with a homemade bomb was the latest in a wave of killings using so-called magnetic or sticky bombs.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing, but the Taliban said they were not involved.  Reports differed on the number of health staff killed, who included Nazefa Ibrahimi, the acting health director of the prison.

The doctors were commuting to Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison in the east of the capital. The prison has held hundreds of Taliban prisoners in recent years and the insurgent movement has repeatedly complained of the conditions of its inmates.

“It is saddening and far from expectations today the enemy of humanity targeted our health workers, who are known as peace-keepers,” Masooma Jafari, a spokeswoman for the health ministry, told Reuters.

Violence has remained unrelenting in Afghanistan this year. An American deal to withdraw US troops from the country and an attempt to set up direct talks between the Afghan government and its Taliban foes have failed to reduce the bloodshed.

The recent wave of assassinations has seen the killing of civil servants, members of the security forces, politicians, journalists and activists.

The Taliban have denied involvement in many of the killings, but the Afghan government and security analysts alleged they are a new tactic to impose pressure during negotiations, while avoiding their previous tactic of indiscriminate suicide bombings. The local branch of Islamic State group have also claimed responsibility for several large attacks, including a November assault on Kabul university.

Afghanistan is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world for attacks on health workers. A World Health Organisation tally of attacks on health staff and premises has recorded 63 attacks and 36 deaths in Afghanistan in 2020.

Health workers in contested provinces often find themselves at the front lines of the country’s conflict. As violence has grown they have found themselves dragged into the war, as they are caught in the crossfire, harassed or intimidated by both sides. Attacks recorded this year have included kidnappings, robberies, and the take over of clinics as well as killings.

In one of the year’s most horrific attacks, 24 women, children and babies were killed when gunmen stormed a maternity hospital in Kabul in May. No group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Doctors Without Borders site.

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