US air strikes at hospital made doctors leave Kunduz

Kabul: A medical aid group said Sunday it has pulled staff from Kunduz where a suspected U.S. airstrike on its hospital there killed at least 19 people, including three children, and denied reports that Taliban fighters were firing at Afghan and NATO forces from the hospital.”All critical patients have been referred to other health facilities and no MSF staff are working in our hospital,” said Kate Stegeman, the communications manager for Doctors Without Borders, using the French acronym for the organization.

Polly Markandya, a Doctors Without Borders representative in London, said staff and patients had been relocated to two other facilities in Kabul and another location two hours away from the city.MSF has said the airstrike, probably carried out by U.S.-led coalition forces, killed 12 staff and seven patients on Saturday in its hospital, leaving 37 wounded.MSF described the attack as “sustained bombing” that continued for more than “30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed” of the airstrikes.

Meinie Nicolai, MSF president, described the attack as “abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law” and demanded “total transparency” from coalition forces.Nicolai said “We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.'”The U.S. military, which has acknowledged it conducted a predawn airstrike in the vicinity of a MSF medical facility, has promised a full investigation into the incident.

A spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan said a U.S. airstrike “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”The northern Afghan city of Kunduz was captured by Taliban forces nearly a week ago in a surprise move that marked the first time the insurgent group captured a major city since being ousted from power in 2001.

The city has since been a scene of fierce fighting as Afghan forces fought their way into the city four days ago.Battles between Taliban and Afghan forces continue in many places, despite government claims to have taken control of the areaIn Kabul, the Afghan Ministry of Defense said Taliban fighters had attacked the hospital and were using the building “as a human shield.”

But MSF denied this, with Stegeman saying there were no insurgents in the facility at the time of the bombing.”The gates of the hospital compound were closed all night so no one that is not staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened,” MSF said in a statement on Sunday. “In any case, bombing a fully functioning hospital can never be justified.”

MSF said in a statement that its trauma hospital in Kunduz was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals from 2:08 a.m. until 3:15 a.m., local time Saturday.

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