The air strikes during military operations in Afghanistan northern Kunduz province to evict Taliban militants from the city hit the hospital of an aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Saturday which 19 people including staff members of the hospital dead and injured more than three dozen others has been widely condemned at home and overseas.
MSF said it had given the location of the hospital to both Afghan and US forces several times in the past few months, most recently this week, to avoid being caught in crossfire.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that “US forces in support of Afghan Security Forces were operating nearby, as were Taliban fighters”.
“(The bombing) constitutes a grave violation of global humanitarian law”, said Doctors Without Borders, which is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF. “All critical patients have been referred to other health facilities and no MSF staff are working in our hospital”, a spokeswoman for the charity said. “However, given the hospital’s protected status and the large numbers of civilians and medical personnel in the facility, attacking the hospital would still likely have been an unlawfully disproportionate attack, causing greater harm to civilians and civilian structures than any immediate military gain”, Human Rights Watch said.
“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”. It also calls for “an independent investigation of the attack to ensure maximum transparency and accountability”.
The Taliban captured Kunduz city earlier this week in the group’s biggest victory in 15 years.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence said in a statement that Taliban fighters had attacked the hospital and were using the building “as a human shield”.
Afghan forces backed by USA airstrikes have been fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran Kunduz on Monday.
At least 37 people were wounded and many patients and staff still missing, he added.
The top USA commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, said that US troops had come under fire in the vicinity of the hospital and that an investigation into the airstrike had begun.
The group has said all indications point to the U.S.-led worldwide coalition.
“This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public”, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, according to a Reuters report.
“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round”, said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF’s head of programmes in northern Afghanistan. “Such attacks against health workers and facilities undermine the capacity of humanitarian organizations to assist the Afghan people at a time when they most urgently need it”. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This incident is under investigation”, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation statement said. The charity further added that U.S. and Afghan forces had been provided exact coordinates of the hospital facility – which was bombed overnight in strikes that lasted over an hour. Hamdullah Danishi said in an interview with the Washington Post that “the hospital campus was 100 percent used by the Taliban”.
MFS has treated 394 people in the hospital, the only one of its kind in the north-eastern region of the country, since the fighting broke out.