Bombed Afghan hospital had 65 Taliban patients

Bombed Afghan hospital had 65 Taliban patients

About 65 Taliban fighters were being treated at the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, hospital in Afghanistan bombed by the United States, according to an internal review released Thursday by the charitable group.

Taliban members accounted for about half of the hospital's 130 patients on the Wednesday before the deadly bombing, which killed at least 30 people. Two Taliban members appeared to have had higher rank, the report said. 

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The report also revealed that the next day, the hospital received an inquiry from a "US Government official in Washington, D.C." asking if the hospital or any other of the organization's locations had a large number of Taliban "holed up" and asked about the safety of the staff. 

"MSF also expressed that we were very clear with both sides to the conflict about the need to respect medical structures as a condition to our ability to continue working," the report said. 

The day before the bombing, two MSF flags were placed on the roof of the hospital in Kunduz, in addition to a flag being flown outside its entrance, the report said. In the hours before the strike, French and Australian diplomats and authorities warned the hospital staff about an increased risk of kidnapping. The hospital than instructed national and international staff who were not on duty to sleep in the safe rooms in the basement and the administrative office.  

The internal report is the first review to be released on the Oct. 3 bombing, which killed 13 staff and 10 patients. Seven other victims have not yet been identified. 

U.S. military officials said the strikes came in response to a call for help from Afghan security forces, who said they were being fired upon from the hospital. MSF staff maintain there was no firing from the hospital the night before the strikes and that patients were unarmed. 

The U.S.-led NATO military coalition is also due to soon release a casualty assessment. The Pentagon said it will seek to answer whether there were civilian casualties and whether the U.S. was responsible for them.

The U.S. military is also conducting a fact-finding investigation to determine what went wrong and who may be responsible.

“The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy,” said Christopher Stokes, MSF's general director. “But we don’t know why. We neither have the view from the cockpit, nor the knowledge of what happened within the U.S. and Afghan military chains of command."

“Some public reports are circulating that the attack on our hospital could be justified because we were treating Taliban,” said Stokes.  

“Wounded combatants are patients under international law and must be free from attack and treated without discrimination. Medical staff should never be punished or attacked for providing treatment to wounded combatants.”

“MSF’s no-weapons policy was respected and hospital staff were in full control of the facility prior to and at the time of the airstrikes," added Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of MSF. 

Read the report here.