As Accusations Swirl, MSF Shuts Bombed Hospital

US claims it was responding to Taliban threat
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2015 8:00 AM CDT
The Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen in flames, after explosions in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.   (M?decins Sans Fronti?res via AP)
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(Newser) – Doctors Without Borders on Sunday closed its bombed-out hospital in the Afghanistan city of Kunduz and evacuated its personnel, amid no shortage of controversy over the US-led airstrikes that killed 19 at the trauma center Saturday. The medical charity known by French initials MSF did not go quietly, reports the New York Times, saying in a statement that "Kabul and Washington were clearly informed of the (GPS coordinates) of the MSF facilities," and that bombing continued for 30 minutes anyway. The US, which initially acknowledged "collateral damage" may have occurred, appeared to dig in on its self-defense, with the top American general in the country saying the military action "was conducted against insurgents who were directly firing upon US service members."

The acting governor of Kunduz province took that a step further, reports the Washington Post, saying the hospital was "a Taliban base" from which various attacks across Kunduz had been staged. "The hospital campus was 100 percent used by the Taliban," he said, adding that "we tolerated their firing for some time" before the strikes were ordered. MSF dismissed that claim—though the Wall Street Journal notes that it treats all who require treatment, even militants—saying that "bombing a fully functioning hospital can never be justified" and that "the gates of the hospital were all closed so no one that is not a staff, a patient or a caretaker was inside the hospital when the bombing happened." An investigation is likely coming, with the UN high commissioner for human rights calling the attack "utterly tragic, inexcusable and, possibly, even criminal," suggesting that if the US knew it was striking a hospital, war crimes charges could result. (Read more Kunduz, Afghanistan stories.)

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