Medical charity wants independent investigation of hospital bombing

Medical charity wants independent investigation of hospital bombing
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Saying the military’s version of events leads to more questions than answers, Doctors Without Borders again called for an independent investigation into the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Afghanistan that killed 30 people.

“The U.S. version of events presented today leaves MSF with more questions than answers,” the organization’s general director Christopher Stokes said in a written statement, using an acronym for the group’s French name. “MSF reiterates its call for an independent and impartial investigation into the attack on our hospital in Kunduz. Investigations of this incident cannot be left solely to parties to the conflict in Afghanistan."

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Army Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, announced Wednesday that an investigation found the bombing was mainly caused by human error and that multiple officials had been suspended as a result.

On Oct. 3, U.S. forces carried out an airstrike that hit the hospital.

The gunship was meant to target a government building thought to be taken over by the Taliban. But the electronic systems on the aircraft malfunctioned, and the crew relied on a description of the target, which the hospital building “roughly matched,” Campbell said.

Following the military’s announcement, Doctors Without Borders called the errors “shocking.”

“It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied life-saving care in Kunduz simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and 'roughly matched' a description of an intended target,” Stokes said in the statement.

U.S. officials have so far resisted the charity’s calls for an independent investigation. Campbell said Wednesday the military’s investigation, carried out by officers outside of the command, was "thorough and unbiased."

But Doctors Without Borders said the errors described Wednesday constitute gross negligence, and thus could be considered a violation of the rules of war, as the group has previously said.

“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war,” Stoke said. “The destruction of a protected facility without verifying the target – in this case a functioning hospital full of medical staff and patients -- cannot only be dismissed as individual human error or breaches of the U.S. rules of engagement.”