After U.S. Airstrike, 9 Dead At Doctors Without Borders Hospital

October 3, 2015

Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET

An aerial attack carried out by U.S. forces may have partially damaged a Médecins Sans Frontières trauma center in the Afghan city of Kunduz in the early hours on Saturday. Around the same time of the U.S.-led attack, the international medical aid group MSF, commonly known as Doctors Without Borders, says a “sustained bombing” hit the building, leaving nine medical staff dead and “more than 30 unaccounted for.”

It is not yet known whether the strikes that hit the hospital were carried out by U.S. military or Afghan forces. U.S. Army Colonel Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan released a statement:

“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz city at 2:15 a.m. (local), 3 October, against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation.”

Later, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement saying it: “mourns for the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors without Borders hospital, and for all those suffering from the violence in Kunduz. Doctors without Borders performs heroic work throughout the world, including in Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with their team at this difficult moment. We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Kunduz and the difficult humanitarian situation faced by its residents.”

In a statement, MSF says they are currently accounting for final casualty numbers from an “aerial attack” they say occurred at 2:10 a.m.:

“We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz,” says Bart Janssens, MSF Director of Operations.”

The attack comes six days after Taliban militants recaptured the city, marking their biggest military gain in 14 years. MSF says that they have treated 394 wounded patients since fighting broke out on Monday, and that at the time of this morning’s attack, 105 patients and their caretakers were in the hospital, along with more than 80 staff present.

MSF calls the hospital the “only facility of its kind” in Afghanistan’s northeastern region, providing free trauma care, regardless of a “patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.”

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi says 10 to 15 “terrorists” were hiding in the MSF hospital at the time of the U.S. airstrike in the area. “An explosion hit nearby, killing nine local staffers from the charitable group. Another 30 people are missing,” he said, but added that besides terrorists, “we also lost doctors.”

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