By Tim Craig,
KABUL – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least nine people in an incident that will likely raise new questions about the scope of American involvement in the country’s 14-year war.
In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike “partially destroyed” their trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.
The airstrike killed at least nine Doctors Without Borders staff members. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, 19 of whom worked at the hospital. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.
“We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on Kunduz,” Bart Janseens, director of operations for the hospital. “We do not yet have final casualty figures, but our medical teams are providing first aid and treating injured patients and…accounting for the deceased.”
Over the past week, U.S. military jets have conducted numerous airstrikes in Kunduz after the Taliban overwhelmed Afghan security forces on Monday. American Special Operations troops and on-the-ground military advisers from the NATO coalition have also been assisting Afghan forces.
Kunduz resident Mirza Langhmani has counted 30 to 35 airstrikes in the area over the past five days. U.S forces conducted 12 of them, including the one suspected of striking the hospital on Saturday, a coalition spokesman said. Afghan forces are also carrying out strikes.
In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition confirmed it carried out an airstrike about 2 a.m. Saturday in response to “individuals threatening the force.”
“The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility,” said Col. Brian Tribus, a coalition spokesman. “This incident is under investigation.”
The Doctors Without Borders facility was the only functional hospital in that part of Afghanistan. The organization posted photographs on Twitter showing part of the hospital was engulfed in flames shortly after the attack.
As the Afghan army battled Taliban fighters in the streets of Kunduz this week, the hospital has been struggling to treat hundreds of patients. At the time of Saturday’s airstrike, 105 patients and more than 80 doctors and nurses were inside the hospital, according to Doctors Without Borders.
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