- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 3, 2015

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Saturday ordered a full investigation into an airstrike on a hospital served by charity doctors in Afghanistan that killed at least 16, including 3 children, and created immediate outrage in the war-torn country,

“A full investigation into the tragic incident is under way in coordination with the Afghan government,” Mr. Carter said in a statement distributed by the Pentagon just hours after the incident.

“While we are still trying to determine exactly what happened, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone affected,” Mr. Carter added. 

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said nine of its staffers were killed when its clinic came under “sustained bombing” Saturday in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, where Afghan officials said helicopter gunships had returned fire from Taliban sheltering in the facility. 

The group said the facility came under attack at 2:10 a.m. The charity did not say whether insurgents were present, and it was not clear whether the staffers were killed by the Taliban, government or U.S. forces. The hospital was treating more than 100 patients. 

The Ministry of Defense said “terrorists” armed with light and heavy weapons had entered the hospital compound and used the “buildings and the people inside as a shield.” 

Army Col. Biran Tribus, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said a U.S. airstrike on Kunduz at 2:15 a.m. “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility,” and that the incident was under investigation, the Associated Press reported. 

Zied Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N. Human rights chief issued a statement calling the incident “tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” AP reported.

He added international and Afghan military planners “have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection. These obligations apply no matter whose air force is involved, and irrespective of the location.”

Mr. Hussein pointed out that is a court of law determined the action was deliberate “an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.” 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office released a statement after the bombing saying the president had spoken with “the commander of NATO’s resolute support mission,” without naming U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell. 

According to the statement, the commander “explained and apologized for the attack.” 

Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes have been battling the Taliban in Kunduz since Thursday, in an effort to retake the city which was recently captured by the militants in their biggest foray into a major urban area since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. 

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