Airstrike destroys Doctors Without Borders hospital, leaving 22 dead

Staff say that a 'war crime' has been committed

This story has been updated.

A U.S. bombing campaign destroyed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan on Saturday, and the group is now calling for an investigation into whether a war crime was committed.

Doctors Without Borders—known around the world as Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—operates in crisis zones around the globe. The facility, in the war-torn torn city of Kunduz, was destroyed despite MSF proactively sharing the location of its hospital with officials.

As of Sunday, 12 MSF staff were dead, along with 10 patients. Dozens of other staff and patients are either wounded or missing. MSF says that it is pulling its staff from Kunduz.

Afghan officials claim that Taliban fighters were taking shelter in the hospital—a charge that MSF officials dispute. Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on Monday that the hospital was inadvertently struck during the bombing campaign.

"We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," Campbell said. "An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck."

Campbell added that the United States, the NATO coalition, and the Afghan government have all launched investigations."If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them. We will hold those responsible accountable, and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated," Campbell said.

However, MSF general director Christopher Stokes says those investigations are not sufficient.

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," Stokes said on Sunday. "Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient."

MSF added in a statement on Monday, "The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition.There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical" (Engel Rasmussen/Elgot, Guardian, 10/4; Rubin, New York Times, 10/4; Neuman, "The Two-Way," NPR, 10/4; Mullen/Fantz, CNN, 10/5).


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