A HUGE car bombing at a hospital killed 60 and wounded 120 in Afghanistan today, days after US President Barack Obama said 10,000 US forces would leave the country this year.
The brazen suicide attack in Logar province, just south of the capital Kabul, killed women and children and was described as "unprecedented" in the history of the near-decade-long Afghan war by officials.
"As a result of this heartbreaking incident, 60 of our countrymen including children, women, youths and men ... have been martyred and 120 others including health workers have been injured," the ministry of public health said in a statement.
"This inhumane act is unprecedented in the history of the conflict in our country and targeted a place where wounds are healed and patients receive treatment."
The statement also voiced "disgust and hatred towards the perpetrators."
Din Mohammad Darwaish, the Logar provincial spokesman, said the attack was a suicide car bombing.
The head of Logar's provincial council, Abdul Wali Wakeel, confirmed the toll and said local officials had contacted foreign forces to ask for help in evacuating the wounded.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul said he was "not aware" that ISAF had been approached for assistance.
The Taliban denied it was behind the attack, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying: "We condemn this attack on a hospital ... whoever has done this wants to defame the Taliban."
Militants in Afghanistan frequently target the Afghan police and other government employees as well as foreign forces in their near decade-long insurgency.
But civilians are the biggest casualties in the war, with 2777 killed last year, according to the United Nations.
The huge blast comes at the end of a week when Obama announced that 33,000 US forces would leave Afghanistan by the end of next summer.
All foreign combat forces are due to pull out of the country by the end of 2014. There are currently up to 150,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan, including around 99,000 from the US.
Some analysts fear that Afghan security forces may struggle to contain the insurgency, which has hit record violence levels, as withdrawals start to get under way.
Today's attack came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who issued a statement condemning it, told a counterterrorism summit in Tehran that militancy was on the rise in both his country and the region.
"Not only has Afghanistan not yet achieved peace and security but terrorism is expanding and threatening more than ever Afghanistan and the region," he told the opening session.
The two-day summit is being attended by the heads of state of six regional countries, including Afghan neighbours Iran and Pakistan.
The blast is the second major attack in Afghanistan in two days.
Yesterday, 10 people were killed by a bicycle bomb which went off in a busy bazaar in Khad Abad district of the northern province of Kunduz.
"Ten people were killed including a police soldier and 24 others were wounded including 18 men, five women and a police member," the Afghan interior ministry said in a statement.
The explosives were planted in a bicycle near an ice-cream shop, the statement added.
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