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U.S. Probe Says Afghan Hospital Attack Was 'Tragic Accident'

  • RFE/RL

The attack on the Kunduz hospital on October 3 killed at least 31 people. (file photo)

The attack on the Kunduz hospital on October 3 killed at least 31 people. (file photo)

The U.S. investigation into a deadly attack on a hospital run by the French charity Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan has concluded that it was an "avoidable accident" caused primarily by "human error."

U.S. Army General John Campbell, the commander of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told a news conference in Kabul on November 25 that the October 3 attack, which killed at least 31 people in the northern city of Kunduz, was unintentional.

"U.S. forces would never intentionally strike a hospital or other protected facilities," Campbell said.

Campbell revealed that "multiple errors occurred that ultimately resulted in a misidentification of --and the strike on -- the MSF trauma center."

Doctors Without Borders -- known in French as Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) -- said the report demonstrates "gross negligence" by the U.S. military.

"The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war," said MSF general director Christopher Stokes in a statement on November 25.

Stokes said the incident constituted "violations of the rules of war" and reiterated calls for an "independent and impartial investigation into the attack."

MSF has publicly cast doubt on the idea that the strike could have been a mistake.

Detailing its own investigation, the charity said the hospital's location had been clearly communicated to both Afghan forces and the Taliban.

The U.S. report said the attack killed at least 31 civilians and injured 28 others. Investigators determined that additional civilians were probably killed or injured.

Campbell, who unveiled the results of the U.S. investigation, added that individuals closest to the incident have been suspended from their duties.

Speaking alongside Campbell, Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the "Resolute Support" mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the investigation found that "some individuals involved did not follow the rules of engagement."

Shoffner said those individuals could be subject to investigation under the military justice or administrative discipline systems.

He did not give any names or say how many people have been temporarily removed from their jobs.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the attack on the hospital was a "painful demonstration of the cost of war."

"Such mistakes can and should be avoided," Ghani said in a statement. "But it is also a painful demonstration of the cost of war being brought upon us by terrorist groups and enemies of Afghanistan," he added, saying that the U.S. investigation "will enable the authorities to learn from the mistakes and hold people accountable."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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