US Changes Story On Doctors Without Borders Bombing

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The U.S. military bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital Saturday in Afghanistan, killing 22 civilians in what the military is calling an accident. But the rapidly changing account of the strike doesn’t quite add up.

An attack aircraft fired precision ordnance on the hospital for more than 30 minutes, leaving the buildings surrounding the compound wholly unscathed, reported The New York Times. The hospital was destroyed and 22 people were killed, including 12 medical staff and three children.

In the middle of the bombardment, Doctors Without Borders said its staff in Washington and in Kabul called the military repeatedly to tell them they were bombing a hospital. Either the message didn’t get through to the right people, or it was ignored.

Doctors Without Borders also said it provided the U.S. military with the Kunduz hospital’s precise coordinates days ahead of the strike, and that no one was fighting nearby when it was hit.

The precise nature of the attack and its duration make it hard to believe the hospital was not the intended target, although the military is apparently unsure whether the Afghan or U.S. troops involved in the strike knew they were bombing a hospital.

The military first reported the strike’s request came in from U.S. forces under direct threat from the Taliban, and that the hospital was hit by accident. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, reversed that statement Monday in front of Congress, calling initial reports wrong.

Campbell said Afghan forces fighting the Taliban near the hospital requested the strike from a U.S. Special Forces team on the ground in Kunduz. But he pulled up short of clarifying whether the U.S. was relying solely on Afghan intelligence, or whether they had American assets on the ground within sight of the hospital.

“Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” he said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck.”

Doctors Without Borders is calling the strike a war crime and is demanding a full investigation.

“Their description of the attack keeps changing — from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government,” the group said in a statement Monday. “The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs.”

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