MSF demands independent probe into hospital airstrike in Afghanistan

Afghan MSF surgeons work in an undamaged part of the MSF hospital in Kunduz after the operating theatres were destroyed in an air strike © MSF
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has demanded an independent international body investigate the suspected US airstrike that killed 22 people at a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The charity’s official said MSF cannot trust the US military probe.

Follow LIVE UPDATES 

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement on Sunday.

"Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient," he added.

The US military launched a probe into the incident on Saturday.

He said MSF condemns the attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.

We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched,” he added.

The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack.”

The US military launched a probe into the incident on Saturday. The US military has confirmed its air forces conducted a strike “in the vicinity” of a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz near the time the facility was hit.

MSF said on Saturday that “all indications” suggest US-led forces carried out the bombing and demanded a transparent account from the Coalition regarding its activities in Kunduz.

On Sunday, NATO said that its preliminary multi-national investigation to determine whether it conducted the airstrike should be wrapped up in a matter of days.

READ MORE: ‘Inexcusable, possibly even criminal’: UN rights chief says Kunduz bombing may be war crime

The acting governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, Hamdullah Danishi, said that the MSF hospital had been harboring Taliban fighters, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. “The hospital campus was 100 percent used by the Taliban,” he said adding “we tolerated their firing for some time” before responding.

MSF denied that Taliban fighters had been inside its hospital shortly before the bombing.

“The gates of the hospital compound were closed all night so no one that is not staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened,” MSF in a statement.

On Sunday Stokes said the charity was “disgusted” by statements made by Afghan officials who justified the attack by saying that the MSF hospital in Kunduz had been used as a ‘Taliban base,’

“These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

“This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as ‘collateral damage.’”

Meanwhile, on Sunday the charity medical aid group announced that its staff are leaving Kunduz. Stokes told Sputnik radio that MSF medical aid would want to return at some point. However, their staff require reassurance.

We need to get some immediate reassurances from all sides of the conflict and especially those we suppose were responsible for this attack … that we can work in Afghanistan without being bombed in our hospitals,” he said.

LISTEN MORE: