The death toll in the bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan has risen to 22 (12 staff and 10 patients) and injured dozens of others.
The bombing has drawn harsh criticism from the international medical organization and demands of a full and transparent account from international Coalition forces.
“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” said Meinie Nicolai, MSF President. “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage’.”
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.
Responses from key political leaders in the US include President Obama and Sen. John McCain.
Mr. Obama said in a statement Saturday:
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. The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy. I have asked the Department of Defense to keep me apprised of the investigation and expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances. Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to all of the civilians affected by this incident, their families, and loved ones. We will continue to work closely with President Ghani, the Afghan government, and our international partners to support the Afghan National Defense and Security forces as they work to secure their country.
Arizona Senator and Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain said on CNN’s State of the Union that this is one of the reasons why we hate wars calling the bombing a tragedy and something that happens in the “fog of war”.
McCain also placed the blame on the withdrawal of US forces from the area saying, “If we had had an air controller, it very most likely would not have happened.”
MSF’s hospital is the only facility of its kind in the north-eastern region of Afghanistan. For four years it has been providing free high level life- and limb-saving trauma care. In 2014, more than 22,000 patients received care at the hospital and more than 5,900 surgeries were performed. MSF treats all people according to their medical needs and does not make any distinctions based on a patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch
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