US to make ‘condolence payments’ to compensate Kunduz hospital bombing victims’ families – Pentagon
The US Department of Defense will work on compensating the families of the victims killed in a deadly American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The strike “mistakenly” killed 22 people.
On Saturday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement that it is “important to address the consequences of the tragic incident at the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.”
“US Forces-Afghanistan has the authority to make condolence payments and payments toward repair of the hospital. USFOR-A will work with those affected to determine appropriate payments. If necessary and appropriate, the administration will seek additional authority from the Congress,” Cook said.
Earlier on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama apologized for the October 3 bombing, saying that the MSF hospital had been “mistakenly struck.” Prior to that, Washington’s story confusingly changed four times in four days – from “not knowing for certain” that it had struck a hospital at the same time as the US forces were “taking fire in Kunduz” to laying the blame on the Afghan government for requesting the bombardment.
Finally, the commander of the US-NATO Afghan mission, General John Campbell, clarified on Monday that the strike had indeed been requested by Kabul, but that it had been US forces who had called in and directed the assault.
“It still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” he said.
He also noted that there had been no threat to US troops in the area.
Despite the US military’s admission of their tragic mistake, MSF has said it is not enough and is continuing to push for an international investigation into the incident, referring to it as a war crime. Twelve of the victims killed in the bombing were MSF staff, while the rest were their patients.
On Wednesday, MSF International President Joanne Liu stressed they believe “it is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake.”
Liu called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established under the Geneva Convention to be “activated” to look into the incident. MSF sent letters to the 76 countries that ratified the protocol setting up the commission in 1991. Neither the US nor Afghanistan are signatories to the document, however.
The humanitarian organization argues that the incident, in which the American Lockheed AC-130 gunship repeatedly bombed the hospital for more than an hour, could not have been accidental, as the hospital’s coordinates had been “regularly shared” with the military to prevent just this sort of tragedy from happening.
“Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime,” Liu said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has offered a $50,000 reward for any footage or cockpit audio from the US warplane that carried out the bombing, stressing that, “according to military procedure,” HD footage of the strike should have been retained.