Monday, May 30, 2016


Afghanistan

Obama Apologizes To MSF For Air Strike On Kunduz Hospital

A wounded staff member of Doctors Without Borders, a survivor of the U.S. air strikes on the hospital in Kunduz, receives treatment at a hospital in Kabul on October 6.
A wounded staff member of Doctors Without Borders, a survivor of the U.S. air strikes on the hospital in Kunduz, receives treatment at a hospital in Kabul on October 6.
By RFE/RL

President Barack Obama has apologized to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for the deadly U.S. air strike on a hospital in northern Afghanistan.

The strike hit the MSF-run hospital in the city of Kunduz on October 3, killing at least 22 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama spoke to the charity's chief Joanne Liu on October 7, "to apologize and express his condolences for the MSF staff and patients who were killed and injured."

Earnest said Obama also told Liu there would be a thorough, transparent investigation into the incident.

Obama also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express condolences for the lives lost of patients and staff during the strike, Earnest said.

In a statement, MSF later said it received Obama's apology but was still demanding an international investigation into the bombing.

Three separate investigations -- by the U.S. military, NATO, and the Afghan government -- are being conducted on the tragic event.

But MSF officials called for a fact-finding mission to determine whether the strike violated the Geneva Conventions.

"We cannot rely on an internal military investigation," Liu said on October 7 in Geneva.

Her comments come one day after General John Campbell, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the hospital was "mistakenly struck" when Afghan officials called for the raid.

The attack led to all international aid organizations leaving the embattled city amid the continued heavy fighting.

"There are presently no humanitarian agencies left inside Kunduz city," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency.

"Two UN entities, four national [NGOs], and 10 international NGOs have been temporarily relocated due to the ongoing conflict and unstable and fluid security situation in Kunduz," he said.

The exodus of charity groups comes amid renewed attacks by the Taliban, which staged assaults on the police headquarters and other government buildings overnight only days after the government claimed control over the city.

Zafar Hashemi, a deputy spokesman for President Ghani, said on October 7 that some "scattered elements of the enemy" remained in Kunduz but that Afghan forces control the main part of the city as operations continue to clear out all Taliban fighters.

Meanwhile, aid agencies are scrambling to gain access to the area so they can assess and address the needs.

Qamirudin Sediqi, an adviser to the health minister, said medicine and doctors were being flown into the city aboard military planes.

Medical officials and residents said emergency supplies of food had also started arriving to the city, which had a population of some 300,000 before the Taliban captured the city last week.

But reports of dire shortages continue.

Laerke said water and electricity reportedly remained cut off across much of the city, and most food markets and other shops remained closed.

He said thousands of people have fled Kunduz, and an estimated 8,500 families have been displaced in the northeast as a result of the fighting.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa

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