The Associated Press & Al Jazeera America – 2015-10-16 00:14:29
US Analysts Knew Bombed Afghan Site Was Hospital
New details suggest hospital ‘intentionally targeted’ by US forces, says Doctors Without Borders
The Associated Press & Al Jazeera America
(October 15, 2015) — American special operations analysts knew a site in Afghanistan was a hospital days before it was destroyed by a US military airstrike and had been gathering intelligence on whether it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, according to an Associated Press report on Thursday.
It’s unclear whether the commanders who led the Oct. 3 attack — which killed at least 22 patients and hospital staffers — knew the site was a hospital or were aware of the allegations of possible enemy activity. The Pentagon initially said the attack was to protect US troops engaged in a firefight but later admitted it was a mistake.
The analysts assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site. The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons.
Pentagon officials have declined to comment on the analysts’ knowledge of the site. President Barack Obama has apologized for the attack.
Doctors Without Borders, which ran the hospital, acknowledged that wounded Taliban fighters were treated at the facility but insisted that no weapons were allowed in. Afghans who worked at the hospital said there was no firing from inside it at the time of the attack.
The airstrikes came as US military advisers were helping Afghan forces take back the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban, which had seized the city in the group’s first major victory since being ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001.
Doctors Without Borders said US jets made five strafing runs over an hour, directing heavy fire on the main hospital building, which contained the emergency room and intensive care unit. Surrounding buildings were not struck, they said.
Typically, pilots flying air support missions would have maps showing protected sites like hospitals and mosques. If commanders determined that the enemy was operating from a protected site, they would follow procedures designed to minimize civilian casualties — not destroy the site.
Doctors Without Borders has condemned the bombing as a war crime. It said that the US strike killed 12 hospital staffers and 10 patients and that many were still missing, so the death toll could rise.
These new details suggest “that the hospital was intentionally targeted, killing at least 22 patients and MSF staff,” said Meinie Nicolai, the president of the operational directorate of Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French initials, MSF.
“This would amount to a premeditated massacre â€¦ Reports like this underscore how critical it is for the Obama administration to immediately give consent to an independent and impartial investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to find out how and why US forces attacked our hospital,” she added.
MSF: US Tank Forced Way into Bombed Afghan Hospital
Incident violated agreement with investigators that medical charity ‘would be given notice’ of such ‘intrusion’
Al Jazeera America
(October 15, 2015) — The medical charity whose hospital in northern Afghanistan was bombed in an American raid said on Thursday that a US tank forced its way through the closed gates of the compound, contravening an agreement that they would be informed.
Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, said they were informed after the “intrusion” that it was by a delegation from a joint US-NATO-Afghan team investigating the Oct. 3 airstrike on the hospital.
The incident violated an agreement with investigators that MSF “would be given notice before each step of the procedure involving the organization’s personnel and assets.”
“Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear,” it said in a statement, adding that an MSF team had arrived at the hospital earlier in the day.
Authorities in Kunduz and the US military did immediately respond to requests for comment.
The strike on the MSF trauma hospital in the northern city of Kunduz killed 10 patients and 12 staff. Another two staffers are now presumed dead, the group said this week, with all other MSF employees accounted for.
MSF has called the incident an “attack on the Geneva Conventions” and yesterday said that the Swiss-based International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC) had been asked to investigate the US bombing.
“We have received apologies and condolences, but this is not enough. We are still in the dark about why a well-known hospital full of patients and medical staff was repeatedly bombarded for more than an hour,” said MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu. “We need to understand what happened and why.”
President Barack Obama apologized for the bombing, which the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, called a “mistake.”
The bombing happened as Afghan forces battled Taliban insurgents who had stormed Kunduz on Sept. 28 and briefly held the city of 300,000, the first provincial capital they have overrun since being forced from power in 2001.
Government troops have largely retaken the city, where authorities say life is returning to normal. Casualty figures have not yet been made public.
The seizure was a grave embarrassment for the government of President Ashraf Ghani. On Thursday, Obama said he would keep nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan through most of next year and 5,500 when he leaves office in 2017, throwing a lifeline to the struggling Afghan forces.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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