Patients Burned in Their Beds After Air Strike Hit Afghanistan Clinic
Apparent coalition bombing killed at least 19
An apparent air strike by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan struck a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Kunduz, where coalition troops are battling Taliban fighters who recently seized the city.
At least 19 people — 12 staff and no fewer than seven patients including children — died in the attack, which may have involved a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship.
“From 2:08 AM until 3:15 AM local time today, MSF’s trauma hospital in Kunduz was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15-minute intervals,” the organization, most widely know by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres, said in a statement.
The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.
“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF Head of Programmes in northern Afghanistan. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames. Those people that could had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds.”
The bombing took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday 29 September, to avoid that the hospital be hit. As is routine practice for MSF in conflict areas, MSF had communicated the exact location of the hospital to all parties to the conflict.
In the aftermath of the attack, the MSF team desperately tried to save the lives of wounded colleagues and patients, setting up a makeshift operating theatre in an undamaged room. Some of the most critically injured patients were transferred to a hospital in Puli Khumri, a two-hour drive away.
“On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest condolences to the medical professionals and other civilians killed and injured in the tragic incident at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz,” U.S. president Barack Obama said in a statement.
“A full investigation into the tragic incident is underway in coordination with the Afghan government,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.