US fired on MSF staffers fleeing bombed hospital, reports says

Issue 
Doctors With Borders' hospital bombed by US forces in Afghanistan.

An internal report produced by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said a US warplane shot at survivors attempting to escape the group's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after the building was bombed by the US last month, Gawker.com reported on November 11.

Gawker.com said: “The US has not provided much explanation for the air strikes, which killed at least thirty people, though the AP reports intelligence analysts may have believed the hospital was under Taliban control — a contention the report strongly rejects.

“According to the organisation, the hospital had been treating both Taliban and government fighters in the days leading up to the bombing. And by their account, it had been a quiet night until the bombing began sometime around 2 a.m. on October 3.”

The MSF report said: “MSF staff recall that the first room to be hit was the ICU, where MSF staff were caring for a number of immobile patients, some of whom were on ventilators. Two children were in the ICU.

“MSF staff were attending to these critical patients in the ICU at the time of the attack and were directly killed in the first airstrikes or in the fire that subsequently engulfed the building. Immobile patients in the ICU burned in their beds.

“After hitting the ICU, the airstrikes then continued from the east to west end of the main hospital building … After the first strike, MSF medical teams working in the operating theatres ran out of the OT and sought shelter in the sterilisation room. The two patients on the operating table in the OTs were killed in the airstrikes.”

The MSF report says that the circling AC-130 gunship fired indiscriminately at survivors. One doctor lost his leg in the blasts and died in surgery, another staffer was decapitated by shrapnel.

“Some accounts mention shooting that appears to follow the movement of people on the run,” the report noted. “MSF doctors and other medical staff were shot while running to reach safety in a different part of the compound.”

The report clearly states that the US knew the compound was a medical facility. Gawker.com said that “the hospital apparently emailed its GPS coordinates to the US Department of Defence, Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense and US army in Kabul just days before the bombing”.

Gawker.com noted: “The US has apologised for the attack, saying it was a 'mistake'.”

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