Doctors Without Borders accused U.S. forces Tuesday of “deliberately” bombing its hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz and renewed its calls for an independent investigation into the incident that left 22 people dead.
The international medical charity has launched a blistering attack against the U.S. military in the days since the Saturday morning airstrike. American officials have said three investigations are underway into the strike, which they said was requested by Afghan forces that were under fire from Taliban insurgents in the area.
“Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities,” Joanne Liu, the charity group’s international president, said in a statement. “Under international humanitarian law, hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law.”
A day earlier, the U.S. military changed its account of the incident, which also drew sharp criticism from the charity group. Initial reports by military officials said the airstrike was called to protect U.S. ground forces who were under direct fire from Taliban insurgents in Kunduz.
Gen. John F. Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, revised that account on Monday, saying the airstrike had been requested by Afghan forces, not Americans.
U.S. officials have not explained how the main hospital building was hit several times with airstrikes while surrounding buildings were mostly unscathed, according to accounts from medical staff and residents.
Liu and other Doctors Without Borders officials have said the facility was well known and its GPS coordinates had been repeatedly shared with U.S. and Afghan military officials before and during the attack.
“This attack does not just touch MSF, but it affects humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermines the core principles of humanitarian action,” Liu said, using the acronym for the group’s French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres. “We need answers, not just for us but for all medical and humanitarian staff assisting victims of conflict, anywhere in the world.”
Fighting continued in the city Tuesday, five days after government forces first claimed to have regained control of the northern city, illustrating the resiliency of Taliban insurgents. The militant group seized Kunduz, a city of more than 300,000 people, on Sept. 28, marking the first time in 14 years it had captured a major urban center.
Also Tuesday, Afghan officials said an overnight clash between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces in Kabul, the capital, ended with all three attackers dead.
Police officials said the assailants were killed by security forces, including Afghan special forces, around 6 a.m. Tuesday, more than 10 hours after the attack began in the Darulaman neighborhood of western Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said targeted a building belonging to the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency.
Abdul Rahman Rahimi, Kabul police chief, said at least seven police officers were injured in the fighting. There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.
Times staff writer Bengali reported from Mumbai, India, and special correspondent Latifi from Kabul.