Afghan forces asked for US air support while fighting the Taliban in Kunduz shortly before an air strike resulted in the deaths of civilians there, the American commander of global forces in Afghanistan said on Monday.
The air strike on the hospital was one of a number of strikes on areas of Kunduz by US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in support of the Afghan army as they try to retake the city from the Taliban.
“An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck”, he said.
Campbell said USA forces were not under direct fire in the incident and the air strike had not been called on their behalf, contrary to previous statements from the US military.
Gen. Campbell said the U.S. military will ensure transparency in investigating the incident, and that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Afghan officials would conduct their own investigations as well.
But he promised a thorough and transparent investigation: “If errors were committed, we’ll acknowledge them”. The MSF, which had earlier called the attack a “war crime” demanding strict action against those behind the bombing, has exited Kunduz following the onslaught.
165-a-16-(Meinie Nicolai (MEH’-nee NEE’-koh-leye), president, Doctors Without Borders, in AP interview)-“during the fighting”-Doctors Without Borders president Meinie Nicolai says the Afghan authorities’ suggestion that the presence of Taliban fighters triggered the hospital attack is disgusting”.
“Their medical work in Afghanistan and elsewhere is vital and is appreciated by certainly all of us in the United States, but I think everyone around the world”, he said, adding that his office has been in contact with Doctors Without Borders over this weekend to emphasize that a full and transparent investigation will be conducted. Almost 400 wounded people were treated at the hospital since the outbreak of violence last Monday.
The aid group has closed its trauma center at the hospital.
The dead included 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, among them three children.
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 worldwide staffers were alive and accounted for.
He said Brig. Gen. Richard Kim would be leading the investigation in Kunduz.
A statement from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation shortly after indicated that US forces may have been responsible for the attack.
Liu said the hospital was used only by staff and patients and protected by a guard.
The main building housing the intensive care unit and emergency rooms was “repeatedly, very precisely” hit nearly every 15 minutes for more than an hour, MSF said.