By Tim Craig,
KABUL – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including three children, 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” its trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.
The airstrike killed at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members, the group said. Three children were also reportedly killed. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.
“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Nicolai called for an independent investigation into the incident: “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.’”
The United Nations’ top human rights official also called for an independent investigation, while equating the airstrike on the hospital to a war crime.
“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.
“This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public,” he said. “The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter issued a statement saying: “While we are still trying to determine exactly what happened, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone affected. A full investigation into the tragic incident is underway in coordination with the Afghan government.”
Doctors Without Borders said its facility came under attack beginning at 2:08 a.m. It was hit by a series of aerial bombardments, lasting until 3:15 a.m. The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, the group says, while surrounding buildings …Read More