There are conflicting reports about a tragic incident in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where a hospital run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders was bombed early Saturday morning.
The Afghan government claims that there were Taliban fighters in the hospital firing on their troops. DWB says the facility had been secured earlier in the evening and there was no way any of the Taliban could have used the hospital for cover.
Then there’s this NBC News video that appears to show automatic weapons in the windows of the burned-out hospital.
Twelve Doctors Without Borders staff along with seven patients, including three children, were killed after an apparent U.S. airstrike hit the international charity’s hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz.
Another 37 others were injured in the strike: 19 staff members, including five in critical condition, and 18 patients and caretakers, according to Jason Cone, the executive director for Doctors Without Borders in the U.S. The organization didn’t comment on the identities of the victims, but said all international staffers were alive and accounted for.
Coalition spokesman Col. Brian Tribus confirmed that a U.S. airstrike conducted at around 2:15 a.m. local time on Saturday (5:45 p.m. ET Friday) “may have caused collateral damage to a nearby health facility.” The incident was being investigated, he added.
Tribus said the bombing was targeting “individuals threatening the force.” The U.S. Embassy later described it as a “tragic incident.”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in a statement that U.S. forces, Afghan Security Force and Taliban fighters have all been active in the area surrounding the hospital, and “we are still trying to determine exactly what happened.”
Doctors Without Borders wants an independent inquiry into the tragedy:
“(The bombing) constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” said Doctors Without Borders, which is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF.
The bombardments continued even after U.S. and Afghan military officials were notified the hospital was being attacked, the charity said.
The White House released a statement from President Barack Obama offering condolences to the charity from Americans.
“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,” the President said. “I … expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances.”
But Christopher Stokes, MSF’s general director, told CNN that an independent inquiry was needed.
“We need an investigation that’s as independent and as transparent as possible, and we don’t only want the findings to be shared, we want — as well — to be able to read the full report,” he said.
“(T)he results of this investigation are I think important for us but also for the ability of humanitarian actors to continue working and provide lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan.”
The NATO mission in Afghanistan issued a statement saying it had directed a “preliminary multinational investigation known as a Casualty Assessment Team.”
“We anticipate having the results of this initial assessment in a matter of days. Additionally, the U.S. military has opened a formal investigation, headed by a General Officer, to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inquiry,” it said.
Does anyone think the U.S. deliberately targeted a hospital regardless of whether the Taliban was present or not? Apparently, the UN Human Rights chief is entertaining that notion:
“This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public,” he said, according to a U.N. statement issued Saturday. “The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”
Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is, indeed, deliberately targeting civilians, using unguided ordnance (“dumb bombs”) on urban centers guaranteed to inflict maximum casualties on innocents. And in Yemen, the Saudis recently broke up a wedding party by dropping a few bombs on the festivities, killing at least 131 civilians.
The outrage directed at Russia and the Saudis has been pretty much pro-forma to this point, highlighting the appalling double standard when it comes to blaming America when unintended civilian casualties occur.