Kabul, 19 Dhulhijjah 1436/3 October 2015 (MINA) –Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said at least 16 people, including nine of its staff have been killed in an overnight bombing of a hospital by US-led forces in the embattled Afghan city of Kunduz.
Among the fatalities in the early Saturday morning attack were three children. It also wounded 37 people, including 19 MSF staff, 18 patients and caretakers, according to the medical charity known for its French initial MSF, Al-Jazeera reported.
In a statement on Saturday, the office of President Ashraf Ghani said Army General John Campbell, head of the US-led forces in Afghanistan has apologised for the incident.
Officials of MSF earlier told Reuters that they “frantically phoned” NATO and Washington DC, as bombs rained on the hospital for “nearly an hour”.
The US-led coalition has also acknowledged launching the air strike “against individuals threatening the force”.
“The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation.”
Earlier, NATO said that a US air strike “may have” hit the hospital, which is run by the medical charity, adding that the attack may have resulted in collateral damage.
The MSF hospital is seen as a key medical lifeline in Kunduz, which has been running “beyond capacity” in recent days of fighting which saw the Taliban seize control of the provincial capital for several days.
The trauma centre is the only medical facility in the region that can deal with major injuries.
“At 2:10 am (20:40 GMT) local time … the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged,” MSF said in a statement on Friday.
At the time of the bombing, 105 patients and their caretakers and more than 80 MSF international and national staff were present in the hospital, the charity said.
Hospital coordinates know to US, Afghanistan
MSF said it gave the coordinates of the hospital to Afghan and US forces several times to avoid being caught in crossfire.
“As MSF does in all conflict contexts, these precise locations were communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months, including most recently on 29 September,” according to MSF Afghanistan representatives.
The bombing reportedly continued for more than 30 minutes after US and Afghan military offices in Kabul and Washington were first informed.
“MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened,” MSF said.
After the attack, the medical charity urged all parties involved in the violence to respect the safety of health facilities, patients and staff.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said that no Taliban fighters were present in the hospital at the time of the air strike.
“We condemn the bombing on the hospital. It was an attack carried out on innocent people.” Zabiullah told Al Jazeera.
“Our mujahedeen (fighters) were not treated at the MSF trauma centre due to prevailing military conditions. Such attacks by US forces have taken place in Afghanistan for years now. This very attack has once again exposed the ruthless colors of the invaders to the Afghans,” he added.(T/R04/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)