Asia

Afghan conflict: MSF 'disgust' at government hospital claims

  • 5 October 2015
  • From the section Asia
Media caption'I saw doctors and patients burning' - survivor

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said it is "disgusted" by Afghan government statements justifying an air strike on its hospital in Kunduz, calling it an "admission of a war crime".

The charity blames US-led Nato forces for Saturday's attack which killed at least 22 people, including MSF staff.

The US is investigating the incident.

Afghan government forces have regained control of much of Kunduz from Taliban fighters who overran the strategic northern city last week.

Sites that appear to have been retaken by government troops include the police chief's office, the central square and the governor's compound, where security forces were shown by local media carrying the national flag.

Residents were reported to be venturing out of their homes and shops reopening on Monday. However, there were still pockets of Taliban resistance on the outskirts of Kunduz.

'Raze to the ground'

US-led Nato forces provided back-up for Afghan troops last week as they battled to regain Kunduz.

On Saturday the Afghan defence ministry said "armed terrorists" were using the hospital "as a position to target Afghan forces and civilians".

MSF said in a statement: "These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital - with more than 180 staff and patients inside - because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

Media captionVickie Hawkins, from MSF UK, insisted that there were no members of the Taliban operating from inside the hospital

"This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimise the attack as 'collateral damage.'"

The Pentagon says a full, transparent investigation will be conducted into the incident. On Monday the top coalition commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Campbell, said it was Afghan forces that had called in the airstrike that hit the clinic.

Reversing an earlier Pentagon statement, he also said US forces had not been under fire at the time.

MSF has called for an independent investigation by an international body.

Media captionFootage from the scene showed the still smoking remains of the clinic

Twelve MSF staff members and 10 patients were killed when the hospital was hit.

Dozens were injured and the hospital severely damaged by a series of air strikes lasting more than an hour from 02:00 local time on Saturday morning.

On its Twitter feed, MSF said: "The hospital was repeatedly and precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.

"Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the hospital compound prior to the US air strike on Saturday morning."

But one local man, Mohammad Arif, who told the BBC he had been at the hospital with his injured son at the time of the bombing, gave a different account.

"The Taliban were pushed by the security forces and they ran towards the hospital and most of them went in to the lower ground floor. Some were outside and I could hear and see that both sides were firing at each other," he said.


Read more on the battle for Kunduz:


MSF said it was pulling most of its staff out of the area but some medical staff were treating the wounded at other clinics.

"All critical patients have been referred to other health facilities and no MSF staff are working in our hospital," a spokeswoman for the charity told AFP news agency.

MSF says the hospital was a lifeline for thousands in the city and in northern Afghanistan.

US President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences and said he would await the conclusions of an inquiry before making a definitive judgement.

The UN called the strikes "inexcusable and possibly even criminal", with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for a thorough and impartial investigation.

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