MSF pulls out staff from Kunduz hospital after airstrike
KABUL (Pajhwok): A day after US military airstrikes heavily hit its hospital, the Doctors without Borders charity on Sunday pulled out its staff from northern Kunduz province.
The Saturday’s pre-dawn airstrikes killed at least 19 people inside the hospital in Kunduz City, including three children and 12 staff members while another 37 people were injured in the aerial bombardment as both Afghan and American forces battled Taliban insurgents who captured the city on Monday.
A spokesman for the group in Kabul said their hospital in Kunduz City was not functional anymore, but some staff remained at other hospitals where some of the wounded had been taken.
Kate Stegeman said all critical patients had been referred to other health facilities and no MSF staff were working in their hospital.
Afghan officials said helicopter gunships returned fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the facility., but Stegeman said there were no insurgents in the facility at the time of the bombing.
A day earlier, President Ashraf Ghani expressed his grief over the incident and said he had contacted the US and NATO top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, and they agreed to launch a joint investigation.
President Barack Obama said he expected a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the bombing.
The Taliban seized Kunduz last Monday after launching a multi-pronged attack, but they were driven from the city as a result of an ongoing counterattack.
Obama expressed condolences to the victims on Saturday, but stopped short of a full apology, citing an investigation launched by the military.
“On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest condolences to the medical professionals and other civilians killed and injured in the tragic incident at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz," the president said in a statement.
The Department of Defense said it had launched a full investigation and would await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of the tragedy.
MSF officials said there were no insurgents inside the hospital besides those who may have come to be treated. The compound gate was closed all night, Stegeman said, and "Only staff, patients and caretakers were inside when bombing occurred."
The United Nations, the US embassy and other international organisations condemned the bombing at the hospital, with the UN human rights chief calling it "tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for a thorough and impartial investigation. "The Secretary-General recalls that hospitals and medical personnel are explicitly protected under international humanitarian law," a statement from his spokesman said
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