WASHINGTON: International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is calling for an independent panel to conduct an investigation under the Geneva Convention after Saturday’s bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan by U.S. forces.”It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake,” MSF International President Joanne Liu told reporters Wednesday.
Her comments came a day after U.S. Army General John Campbell, who heads the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, told a congressional committee that U.S. forces were responsible for “mistakenly” hitting the hospital. The bombings killed 10 patients and 12 MSF staff members.Liu said the facts of the attacks need to be investigated impartially and independently, and that MSF cannot rely on the internal probes promised by the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO.
MSF Switzerland General Director Bruno Jochum said the hospital was targeted “without doubt,” with four or five strikes coming in less than an hour and none of the surrounding buildings being hit.”We’re not talking about the random bomb or the random bullet that basically creates damage in one of our facilities,” he said. “We’re talking about the methodic destruction of the main building of the hospital offering intensive care and trauma care to patients.”
Jochum said the hospital well was known to everyone in the area and had been operating for four years. He highlighted the importance of investigating the attack, saying that allowing a country to get away with such an act sends a message “to all armed groups that this can happen.”Campbell told lawmakers that Afghan forces requested the airstrike on the MSF hospital because Taliban insurgents were firing from the facility, and that U.S. forces acted after reviewing the request.
“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fire was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. “A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest called the bombing a “profound tragedy and something the United States takes very seriously.”
Meanwhile, fresh fighting broke out Tuesday in Kunduz, belying days of government claims its forces have evicted the Taliban and recaptured the beleaguered city.Afghan security forces and insurgents clashed in the provincial capital’s central square.Authorities warned that food and other aid cannot get through to the city in northern Afghanistan. The United Nations says all international aid groups have left Kunduz.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, says its fighters staged an assault on Afghan forces in the early morning and fighting was continuing in several parts of the city.Insurgents had briefly overrun Kunduz a week ago in a surprise offensive, but Afghan forces wrested back the control three days later and have since claimed to have flushed out Taliban militants.Insurgents have also captured several districts in two nearby northern provinces and Afghan forces are battling to regain control of the lost territory.