Reports suggest that at least nine Doctors Without Borders medical staff have been killed in Afghanistan after one of its clinics was hit by a U.S. air strike.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) claims 37 people were wounded and nine killed in an attack. U.S. air forces are confirmed to have been carrying out air strikes in the region at the time and the NATO alliance have admitted that the clinic may have been hit.
MSF said its clinic was hit several times during “sustained bombing and was very badly damaged” early on Saturday morning. Many patients and staff remain unaccounted for.
And, perhaps most shockingly of all, MSF have also claimed that the bombing continued for more than half an hour after military officials were informed of the close proximity of the hospital.
There are also suggestions that forces were told about the location of the medical centre even before they began the strikes.
Bombing continued for >30 minutes after American & Afghan military officials in Kabul & Washington first informed of proximity to hospital.
— MSF International (@MSF) October 3, 2015
There has been intense fighting in Kunduz since Taliban fighters swept into the city on Monday.
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Col Brian Tribus, said:
US forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz city at 02:15 (local time) against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.
— Jonathan Whittall (@offyourrecord) October 3, 2015
In a statement, Patricia Gossman, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch said:
[We have] grave concerns about whether US forces took sufficient precautions to identify and avoid striking the facility. The bombing of the hospital is a shocking development for Kunduz, where civilians and aid workers are already at grave risk from the fighting. All forces are obligated to do their utmost to avoid causing civilian harm.
The group have called for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the incident.
The UN Afghanistan chief has also strongly condemned the strike.
The reaction to the incident on Twitter has been strong, with many outraged by the attack.
— EMERGENCY (@emergency_ong) October 3, 2015
Latest on the @MSF hospital bombing in Kunduz: 9 dead. And MSF had informed authorities of GPS location of its facility beforehand. Dreadful
— Sam Gad Jones (@samgadjones) October 3, 2015
— Bethany E. Matta (@BethanyMatta) October 3, 2015
— Sune Engel Rasmussen (@SuneEngel) October 3, 2015
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) October 3, 2015
Days of hysteria over Russian strikes, then the US bombs a hospital and suddenly "civilians" become "collateral damage". Disgusting. #Kunduz
— Danielle Ryan (@DanielleRyanJ) October 3, 2015
The attack will again raise serious questions about how the U.S. military carries out air strikes of this nature.