The international community is reeling in the aftermath of a U.S. air strike which pounded a medical facility belonging to the international aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, a.k.a. Doctors Without Borders, relentlessly for 30 minutes in the Afghan city of Kunduz Saturday, leading to the deaths of at least 22 people: 12 medical staff and 10 patients (including 3 children who were being treated). An additional 37 people have been injured. This attack, which the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called “utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal“, occurred in spite of the fact that the medical aid agency had given the location of the hospital, with exact GPS coordinates, “to both Afghan and U.S. sides several times in the past few months, as well as this week, to avoid being caught in the crossfire” between U.S.-NATO-Afghan security forces and the Taliban insurgency. And despite U.S. and NATO claims that the strikes on the hospital were regrettable instances of “collateral damage”, evidence and eye witness reports point to the fact that it was the main hospital building that was targeted, being hit numerous times while the rest of the compound was left untouched.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene, as PressTV reports:
“Those people that could, had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds,” recalled Heman Nagarathnam, the head of programs by the charity group, known by its French acronym, MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres).
It was also said that a patient was left in the operating room on the table “dead, in the middle of the destruction.”
“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” Nagarathnam said, adding, “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again.”
The MSF said in a statement that at 2:10 a.m. local time on Saturday (2040 GMT) its trauma center in Kunduz was hit several times. It added that the aerial assault continued for more than half an hour after US and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed.
Some patients and medical staff remain missing.
Borrowing a page from the Israel ‘Defense’ Force’s propaganda playbook, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi claimed 10-15 Taliban insurgents were “hiding in the hospital at the time of the strike” and using it “as a human shield“. Medecins Sans Frontieres categorically denies this, saying there were no Taliban fighters anywhere in the facility and that “bombing a fully functioning hospital can never be justified.” The group also denounced the attack as an “abhorrent and grave violation of international law.” U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein went so far as to state that, “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.“
In the meantime, over in the United States, U.S. ‘cold warrior’ Secretary of ‘Defense’ Ashton Carter announced the initiation of an internal probe/ investigation led by the Obama administration “in coordination with the Afghan government” of the cause of the air strike. MSF/ Doctors Without Borders General Director Christopher Stokes has rejected any such probe on the part of the U.S. as inadequate, declaring,
“Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.“