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Kunduz hospital airstrike

Kunduz hospital airstrike
Part of the War in Afghanistan (2015–present)

Location of Kunduz MSF Trauma Center within Kunduz
Type Airstrike
Location Kunduz Province, Afghanistan
Target Médecins Sans Frontières hospital
Date 3 October 2015
Executed by AC-130U, call sign "Hammer", assigned to 4th Special Operations Squadron, United States Air Force[1]
Casualties 30 killed
33 missing, over 30 injured

On 3 October 2015 a United States Air Force AC-130U gunship attacked a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital (English name: Doctors Without Borders) in the city of Kunduz, in the province of the same name in northern Afghanistan. In the aftermath, it has been reported that at least 30 people were killed, over 30 injured, and 33 remained missing.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Médecins Sans Frontières condemned the incident, stating that all warring parties had been notified of the hospital's location ahead of time, and that the airstrike was deliberate, and a violation of international humanitarian law.[8][9] The United States military initially stated the airstrike was carried out to defend U.S. forces on the ground. Later, the United States commander in Afghanistan, General John F. Campbell, stated the airstrike was requested by Afghan forces who had come under Taliban fire. Campbell stated that the attack was "a mistake", saying "We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."[10][11]

On 7 October 2015, President Barack Obama issued a rare apology.[12] Three investigations have been begun into the incident by NATO, a joint United States-Afghan group and the United States Department of Defense. Doctors without Borders has called for an international and independent probe, stating that the armed forces who carried out the airstrike cannot conduct an impartial investigation of their own actions.[12]

Contents

  • Bombing incident 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Incident 1.2
    • Confirmation and response 1.3
    • International humanitarian law 1.4
  • Casualties 2
  • Facility evacuation and shutdown 3
  • Investigation 4
  • Allegations of bias and self-censorship 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Bombing incident

Background

On 28 September, Taliban militants seized the city of Kunduz, driving government forces out of the city. After the reinforcements arrived, the Afghan army, backed by U.S. airstrikes, began an offensive operation to regain control of the city; after several days of fighting, Afghan forces claimed to have retaken the city. But fighting continued, and on 3 October, a US-led airstrike struck and badly damaged the hospital, killing doctors, staff members and patients.

MSF had informed all warring parties of the location of its hospital complex. MSF personnel had contacted U.S. military officials as recently as 29 September to reconfirm the precise location of the hospital.[13]

Incident

Médecins Sans Frontières reported that between 02:08 and 03:15 local time ([15] They further stated that the hospital had been "repeatedly & precisely hit" and that the attack had continued for 30 minutes after MSF staff contacted U.S. and Afghan officials during the strike.[16][17]

Confirmation and response

The U.S. military initially stated that there had been an airstrike in the area to defend U.S. forces on the ground, and that "there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility".[15] On NBC Nightly News on October 15, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported that, based on the accounts of Defense Department sources, cockpit recordings from the AC-130 gunship involved in the incident "reveal that the crew actually questioned whether the airstrike was legal".[18] U.S. and NATO Commander John F. Campbell later confirmed that a U.S. AC-130 gunship had made the decision to bomb the hospital, contrary to earlier reports that the strike had been requested by local Afghan forces under Taliban fire.[10][11] He specified that the decision to use aerial fire was "made within the US chain of command".[19] Campbell stated that the attack was "a mistake", saying "We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."[20] White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended U.S. forces, stating that the U.S. Department of Defense "goes to greater lengths and places a higher premium on avoiding civilian casualties" than any other military in the world, and hinted the U.S. may compensate victims and their families.[14][21] U.S. President Barack Obama apologized to MSF president Joanne Liu for the incident, saying it was a mistake and was intended to target Taliban fighters.[21] The U.S. will offer "condolence payments" to the families of the victims, and contribute to the rebuilding of the hospital.[22][23]

The Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi confirmed an airstrike on 3 October, saying that "10–15 terrorists were hiding in the hospital" and confirming that hospital workers had been killed.[24] The Afghan Ministry of Defense and a representative of the police chief in Kunduz also said that Taliban fighters were hiding in the hospital compound at the time of the attack, the latter claiming that they were using it as a human shield.[4][25]

Médecins Sans Frontières stated that no Taliban fighters were in the compound. [14]

International humanitarian law

Attacks on medical facilities are forbidden under Human Rights Watch stated that the laws of war require the attacking force to issue a warning, and wait a reasonable time for a response, before attacking a medical unit being misused by combatants.[19]

Casualties

Among the casualties, 13 of the 30 dead were MSF staff and 10 were patients, including three children. 7 of the dead have not been identified as yet. Six intensive care patients were burned to death in their beds, and another patient died after staff had to leave them on the operating table.[27][5][28][29] MSF reported that the 12 staff killed were all Afghan nationals, and that all three of their international staff members who were present survived.[30] Five days after the strike MSF reported that 33 individuals, including both staff and patients, were still missing.[7]

Facility evacuation and shutdown

The attack made the hospital unusable. All critical patients were referred to other providers, and all MSF staff were evacuated from Kunduz. Before the bombing, the MSF's hospital was the only active medical facility in the area.[4] It has been the only trauma center in northeastern Afghanistan. In 2014, more than 22,000 patients were treated at this emergency trauma center and more than 5,900 surgeries were performed.[31]

Eleven days after the attack, MSF said an American tank entered the hospital: "Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear." The tank smashed the gate of the hospital complex. The MSF executives who happened to be in the hospital at the time were told that the tank was carrying a US-Nato-Afghan team investigating the attack. The soldiers were unaware of any remaining MSF staff at the site and were in the process of doing damage assessment.[32][33][34][35][36]

Investigation

NATO, the U.S., and Afghanistan have all launched investigations, with U.S. President Barack Obama stating, "The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy. [...] I ... expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances."[5][37] Obama also gave his "deepest condolences".[4] The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, John F. Campbell said, "While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected. [...] As always, we will take all reasonable steps to protect civilians from harm."[38] U.S. officials stated that U.S. Army Brigadier General Richard Kim would lead the investigation, and that two other investigations will be conducted by NATO and by U.S. military and Afghan security officials.[39] Campbell stated that the U.S. Army would "coordinate" other investigations if necessary.[39] Afghan president Ashraf Ghani appointed a five-member commission to investigate the airstrike as well as the Battle of Kunduz more generally.[23] On Saturday, NATO said it was continuing its inquiry into the bombing and had appointed three US military officers from outside the chain of command to handle the investigation to ensure impartiality. Campbell had appointed US Army Maj. Gen. William Hickman and two brigadier generals to continue the investigation begun by Brig. Gen. Richard Kim, NATO said in a statement. The results of the NATO investigation had been expected last week but appear to have been held up by difficulties in identifying the remains of bodies in the hospital.[40]

Médecins Sans Frontières called for an independent inquiry of the air attack on the hospital. The organization's general director, Christopher Stokes, stated, "We need an investigation that's as independent and as transparent as possible, and we don't only want the findings to be shared, we want – as well – to be able to read the full report."[25] He also said that, "Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient. [...] 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."[41] The medical journal, The Lancet, supported this call for an independent investigation.[42]

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, also demanded an investigation, saying, "This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal. International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection."[43]

The MSF has demanded that an independent investigation be conducted into the attack. The charity has specified that the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, which is based in Bern, should undertake this work.[44]

Jason Cone, MSF's U.S. executive director, said an armored vehicle full of investigators arrived unannounced Thursday at the hospital facility and crashed through its gates. In a statement, MSF said the investigators destroyed "potential evidence".[45] A U.S. coalition spokesman told NBC, "We are aware of the incident and are looking into what happened."[46] A Pentagon spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, said the troops were in an "Afghan, tracked vehicle", but not a tank, and crashed through a locked gate. "They did it, they shouldn't have."[47]

Allegations of bias and self-censorship

Journalist Glenn Greenwald condemned The New York Times and CNN for initially describing the attack as under investigation by U.S. forces, but unlike other media, failing to mention that U.S. forces had themselves attacked the hospital.[48]

See also

References

  1. ^ "By evening, a hospital. By morning, a war zone". The Washington Post. 10 October 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Sydney Morning Herald (October 26 2015)
  3. ^ "Aghanistan: Death toll from the MSF hospital attack in Kunduz still rising", MSF news release (23 October 2015)
  4. ^ a b c d Wang, Amy X. (4 October 2015). "The Aftermath of the Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders".  
  5. ^ a b c Popalzai, Masoud; Brumfield, Ben; Almasy, Steve and Jason Hanna (3 October 2015). "Air attacks kill at least 19 at Afghanistan hospital; U.S. investigating". CNN. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Rubin, Alissa J.; Southall, Ashley (4 October 2015). "Doctors Without Borders Says It Is Leaving Kunduz After Strike on Hospital". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Doctors Without Borders airstrike: MSF says 33 people still missing". The Guardian. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "Afghanistan: MSF Demands Explanations After Deadly Airstrikes Hit Hospital in Kunduz". Doctors Without Borders. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Doctors Without Borders Enraged Over 'Deliberate' Kunduz Hospital Bombing. The Huffington Post, 6 October 2015.
  10. ^ a b c "U.S. military struggles to explain how it wound up bombing Doctors Without Borders hospital". Washington Post. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Rosenberg, Matthew (5 October 2015). "U.S. General Says Afghans Requested Airstrike That Hit Kunduz Hospital". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Shear, Michael D.; Sengupta, Somini (8 October 2015). "Obama Issues Rare Apology Over Bombing of Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "Afghanistan: US-Angriff auf Klinik in Kundus ein Kriegsverbrechen?" (in German). Deutsche Welle. 2015-10-03. Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  14. ^ a b c Mullen, Jethro; Fantz, Ashley (5 October 2015). "'"Afghan hospital bombing: Civilians 'accidentally struck. CNN. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Rubin, Alissa J. (3 October 2015). "Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  16. ^ Rahim, Fazul; Cumming, Jason; Sederholm, Jillian; Fieldstadt, Elisha (3 October 2015). "19 Dead After Charity Hospital Hit by Apparent U.S. Airstrike". NBC News. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  17. ^ "Afghan conflict: MSF 'disgust' at government hospital claims". BBC News. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  18. ^ (16 October 2015)SlateJoshua Keating, "The Doctors Without Borders Bombing Is Looking More and More Like a War Crime",
  19. ^ a b c "Afghan conflict: What we know about Kunduz hospital bombing". BBC News. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "Kunduz: Afghan MSF hospital strike a mistake, says US". BBC News. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  21. ^ a b "Obama apologises to MSF president for Kunduz bombing". BBC News. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  22. ^ Peralta, Eyder (2015-10-11). "U.S. Will Make 'Condolence Payments' To Victims Of Kunduz Hospital Airstrike". NPR.org. Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  23. ^ a b "Afghan President Orders Investigation Into Fall of Kunduz". AP. 2015-10-10. Retrieved 2015-10-14. 
  24. ^ "Afghan government confirms airstrike on Kunduz hospital – video". The Guardian. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  25. ^ a b c Popalzai, Masoud; Brumfield, Ben; Almasy, Steve and Jason Hanna (4 October 2015). "Medical charity urges independent inquiry after Afghan hospital blown apart". CNN. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  26. ^ http://www.latimes.com/world/afghanistan-pakistan/la-fg-doctors-without-borders-20151004-story.html
  27. ^ "Aghanistan: Death toll from the MSF hospital attack in Kunduz still rising", MSF news release (23 October 2015)
  28. ^ O'Donnell, Lynne (4 October 2015). "Doctors Without Borders leaves Afghan city after airstrike". AP. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  29. ^ Rahim, Fazul; Cumming, Jason; Sederholm, Jillian; Fieldstadt, Elisha (3 October 2015). "Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz Hit by Apparent U.S. Strike". NBC. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  30. ^ Cumming-Bruce, Nick (7 October 2015). "Doctors Without Borders Calls for Inquiry Into Kunduz Hospital Attack". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  31. ^ "Afghanistan: MSF demands explanations after deadly airstrikes hit hospital in Kunduz", MSF (October4 2015).
  32. ^ Tom McCarthy (16 October 2015). "US tank enters ruined Afghan hospital putting 'war crime' evidence at risk". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  33. ^ KRISTA MAHR (16 October 2015). "MSF says U.S. tank entered compound of bombed Afghan hospital without permission". Reuters. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  34. ^ "Kunduz: des soldats américains forcent l'entrée de l'hôpital de MSF bombardé". L'Express (in Français). 16 October 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  35. ^ "Des militaires américains forcent l’entrée de l’hôpital de MSF à Kunduz". Le Monde (in Français). 16 October 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  36. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/21/kunduz-hospital-attack-even-in-20-years-we-wont-get-such-a-hospital-again
  37. ^ "'"Doctors Without Borders: Kunduz Airstrike Was 'War Crime. NPR. 4 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  38. ^ Grierson, Jaime; Duggan, Oliver (3 October 2015). "US and Afghanistan vow investigation into air strike on MSF hospital – as it happened". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  39. ^ a b Torbati, Yeganeh (6 October 2015). "Afghan forces called for air strike in Kunduz: U.S. general". Reuters. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  40. ^ Sydney Morning Herald (October 26 2015)
  41. ^ Harooni, Mirwais and Andrew MacAskill (4 October 2015). "Medical charity MSF demands independent inquiry into air strike on Afghan hospital". Reuters. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  42. ^ What are the Geneva Conventions for?, editorial, The Lancet, vol. 386, no. 10003, p. 1510, 17 October 2015
  43. ^ "Afghanistan: UN strongly condemns 'tragic, inexcusable' Kunduz hospital airstrike". UN. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  44. ^ "Independent fact-finding mission urged over deadly Kunduz strike - Independent.ie" (in German). 7 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  45. ^ Barbara Starr, "http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/16/politics/doctors-without-borders-hospital-airstrike-kunduz/index.html "U.S. official: Doctors Without Borders 'did everything right' before airstrike", CNN (October 17, 2015
  46. ^ (16 October 2015)SlateJoshua Keating, "The Doctors Without Borders Bombing Is Looking More and More Like a War Crime",
  47. ^ (19 October 2015)The GuardianAFP, "Bombed MSF hospital gate broken through by troops, Pentagon confirms", AFP,
  48. ^ Greenwald, Glenn (5 October 2015). "CNN and the NYT Are Deliberately Obscuring Who Perpetrated the Afghan Hospital Attack". The Intercept. The Intercept. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 

External links

  • ‘Look for Hospitals as Targets’: The historical record suggests that the US bombing of an Afghan hospital was no accident. Greg Grandin for The Nation. 5 October 2015.

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