By Leigha Wentz,
International News Editor
The United States is currently launching an investigation into the early morning bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital on Saturday, October 3 following days of heavy fighting in the Afghan city of Kunduz.
The bombing resulted in the deaths of at least 16 individuals, including nine staffers and seven patients. According to CNN, three of the deceased patients were children, and approximately 37 other individuals have been seriously injured. Early reports have indicated that the bombing may have been the result of a United States airstrike in the area, with the United States military issuing a statement at 2:15 am that the strike had targeted individuals “who were threatening the force”, as quoted by the New York Times. United States and NATO forces have both admitted that the strikes may have caused collateral damage to the hospital.
Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, has condemned the attack, claiming that US and NATO officials had continued to carry out airstrikes 30 minutes after they had been told of the hospital’s location. In addition, the BBC reports that MSF claims to have sent the exact GPS co-ordinates of the hospital to both Kabul and Washington on September 29, four days prior to the attack. MSF staff had called NATO and US officials nine minutes after the first bomb landed at 2:10, only to have the bombing continued until 3:13.
The hospital had been known for treating wounded from all sides of the conflict, despite objections from the Afghan security forces.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement that a full investigation has been launched into the attacks in coordination with the Afghan government, adding that the area around the hospital had been at the center of days of intense fighting, according to the New York Time.
The incident has earned widespread condemnation from the international community, prompting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to call for a transparent investigation into the attack.
“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” he said, as quoted by the BBC. “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. These obligations apply no matter whose air force is involved, and irrespective of the location.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross has also condemned the bombing, while the US Embassy in Kabul issued its condolences to the victims of the attack.
The MSF hospital had been at the center of clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces earlier in the week following the Taliban’s capture of the city on Monday, September 28.
The hospital had reportedly been damaged in earlier bouts of fighting and had been overwhelmed by wounded fighters and civilians in recent days, according to the NY Times.
105 patients and caretakers had reportedly been at the hospital just prior to the attack, in addition to 80 staff members.
Kunduz is one of the largest cities in Afghanistan and has long been considered a site of strategic importance due to its position on the main highway between the capital of Kabul and neighboring Tajikistan, according to CNN.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 6th print edition.
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