- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2015

Doctors Without Borders said Thursday a U.S. warplane shot victims as they fled a burning hospital bombed in an airstrike in Afghanistan last month.

“Thirty of our patients and medical staff died [in the bombing],” Doctors Without Borders General Director Christopher Stokes said during a speech in Kabul as the charity organization unveiled its report on the incident, NBC reported. “Some of them lost their limbs and were decapitated in the explosions. Others were shot by the circling gunship while fleeing the burning building.”

The hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz was bombed Oct. 3 at the request of Afghan forces fighting to regain control of the city from Taliban insurgents.

The Pentagon has said the hospital was struck by mistake and has launched its own investigation into the incident. NATO and the Afghan government have also launched separate investigations.

Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), has called the bombing a war crime and demanded an outside investigation by a United Nations panel authorized under the Geneva Convention.

According to MSF’s Thursday report, “Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs, and others were shot dead by the circly AC-130 gunship while fleeing the burning building.”

The report also details hospital operations in the days leading up the bombing and said hospital staff were treating an increasing number of Taliban fighters.

“In the week starting September 28, [the majority of the wounded fighters] shifted to primarily wounded Taliban combatants,” according to the report.

On Oct. 1, a U.S. government official in Washington D.C. contacted MSF asking whether the Kunduz hospital or any other MSF clinic had “a large number of Taliban ‘holed up,’” according to the report. “MSF also expressed that we were very clear with both sides to the conflict about the need to respect medical structures as a condition to our ability to continue working.”

MSF does not ask patients which armed group they fight for as a matter of policy and said fighters are prohibited form bringing weapons into its hospitals.

U.S. officials have claimed they were not aware that the building was a hospital, but according to MSF’s report, on the night before the attack, “two MSF flags were placed on the roof of the hospital, in addition to the existing flag that was being flown at the entrance to the Trauma Centre.”

During the hour-long attack, hospital staff made 18 distress calls and texts to officials in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

“The question remains as to whether our hospital lost its protected status in the eyes of the military forces engaged in this attack — and if so, why,” the report stated. “The answer does not lie within the MSF hospital. Those responsible for requesting, ordering and approving the airstrikes hold these answers.”

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