On Saturday, Oct. 3, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed accidentally after Afghan forces called for air support from the American military, Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Monday.
“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” he said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck.”
Doctors Without Borders, which also goes by the name Médecins Sans Frontières, has said that another 37 people were wounded and has called the bombing a war crime. This group works in conflict zones to help victims of war, natural disasters and other tragedies.
In a statement after the general spoke, the organization demanded a full and transparent independent investigation of the bombing.
“Today the U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff,” the statement read. “Their description of the attack keeps changing — from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government.
“The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” it continued. “There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”
Executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S., Jason Cone, says the group has sent letters “to all 76 signatory countries” of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, asking them to approve an investigation.
That list includes the U.S., Cone said at a news conference in New York on Oct. 7. He urged President Obama to agree to the request.
If the request is granted, it would “activate the investigative arm of Geneva Conventions protocols,” reports NPR’s Quil Lawrence, saying that the commission, despite officially existing since 1991, has never been activated.
Saying that there have been “inconsistencies” in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, Cone also acknowledged that there may have been Taliban fighters inside the hospital, saying, “We treat anyone who is a victim of conflict… combatants [are] not combatants any more once they are wounded.”