MSF leaves U.S.-bombed Kunduz hospital
Humanitarian crisis growing increasingly dire in northern city targeted by Taliban
KABUL— The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said on Sunday it had withdrawn from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz after a deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people, as the U.S. and Afghan governments vowed to get to the bottom of the carnage.
The humanitarian crisis in the city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last week before the government launched a counteroffensive, has been growing increasingly dire, with shops shuttered because of ongoing fighting and roads made impassable by mines planted by insurgents.
“All critical patients have been referred to other health facilities and no MSF staff are working in our hospital,” said Kate Stegeman, the communications manager for Doctors Without Borders, using the French acronym for the organization.
Investigations are continuing into the bombing of the hospital on Saturday, which killed at least 22 people. The charity announced Sunday that three injured hospital patients had died, bringing the total to 10 — in addition to 12 dead hospital staffers.
The circumstances surrounding the incident remain murky. The charity said in a statement Saturday that “all indications” pointed to the international military coalition as responsible for the bombing. Army Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said a U.S. airstrike “in the Kunduz vicinity” around 2:15 a.m. Saturday morning “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”
Afghan officials said helicopter gunships returned fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the hospital, and The Associated Press video footage of the burned out compound in the east of Kunduz city shows automatic weapons, including rifles and at least one machine-gun, on windowsills. But Stegeman said there were no insurgents in the facility at the time of the bombing.
President Ashraf Ghani said a joint investigation was underway with U.S. Forces. President Barack Obama said he expected a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the bombing.
The Taliban’s brief seizure of Kunduz marked the insurgent group’s biggest foray into a major urban area since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion end- ed their rule.
Afghan forces have been struggling to combat the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO shifted to a support and training role at the end of last year, officially ending their combat mission in the war-torn country.
Acting provincial Gov. Hamidullah Danishi said most of the insurgents had fled the city and that those still standing their ground appeared to be non-Afghans who have been boosting Taliban forces in the north of the country for months. Officials have said that many of them are members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Danishi said that 480 Taliban fighters had been killed as of Friday, and around 300 wounded. He put casualties among Afghan security forces at between 30 and 35 killed or wounded.
Meanwhile thousands of civilian residents remain trapped inside the city. Militants blocked and mined roads as soon as they entered Kunduz to prevent people from leaving and to thwart a government assault.
A Doctors Without Borders hospital was damaged in an airstrike Sunday.