Twelve staff members of Doctors Without Borders were killed in a US-led airstrike in the battle to retake Kunduz from Taliban forces. Seven patients that included three children were also killed and another 37 people were reported to have been severely injured. The attack persisted despite the hospital staff’s frantic calls directly to the US military pleading with senior members to stop bombing. Doctors Without Borders said the intense fighting and bombing campaign lasted 30-45 minutes. In a statement the group said, “the bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after the American and Afghan military were first informed.”
The Washington Post reported that a nurse, Lajos Zoltan Jecs who emerged from a safe room saw the intensive care unit on fire. “Six patients were burning in their beds. The are no words for how terrible it was [sic].”
International condemnation from human rights’ organizations swiftly gathered steam and prompted page one coverage on the Sunday shows. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, took to Twitter and said, “ Hard for the US to pass off Kunduz hospital as ‘collateral damage’ in light of repeated attacks.”
The United Nations released a statement about the hospital bombing. “This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable and, possibly, even criminal.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein explained, “If (this) is established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
Staff members who survived the US attack said patients were literally burned alive in their beds. The President from Doctors Without Borders, Meinie Nicolai said, “This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation to international humanitarian law.”
The international hospital claims it has given its GPS coordinates to the US-led allied forces for years and they knew the location of the hospital, and, that it was the only urgent care facility in the region. An unnamed hospital spokesperson also told reporters that as fighting in the region intensified, they notified the US three days prior to the devastating attacks to ensure the safety of the patients and staff.
So far the US military confirmed that at least one airstrike in the area may have caused collateral causalities. But the military said it responded to attacks from “insurgents who were directly firing upon US service members.”
The latest offensive comes after a week of intense fighting from the Taliban in which they successfully took over Afghanistan’s sixth largest city of Kunduz—something they hadn’t been able to accomplish since 2001 shortly after 9/11. The US military began to strike positions held by the Taliban after the US moved Special Operations Forces to the northern city in Afghanistan.
President Obama released a statement extending his condolences to the families of loved ones killed in the US strike. “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.”
A preliminary multinational, including NATO, investigation is underway and should be concluded “in a matter of days.”