Doctors Without Borders today released an internal review of the U.S. attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, citing accounts that some people were fired on as they tried to escape the main building.
The report revealed new insight into what the humanitarian group says happened on the night of Oct. 3, when U.S. airstrikes mistakenly killed 30 MSF hospital staff and patients.
“Many staff describe seeing people being shot, most likely from the plane, as people tried to flee the main hospital building that was being hit with each airstrike,” reads the report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as the organization is known internationally. “Some accounts mention shooting that appears to follow the movement of people on the run.”
MSF says 105 patients were in the hospital at the time of the attack, 20 of whom were wounded Taliban fighters.
The strikes began sometime after 2 a.m. and lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes despite repeated calls and texts from MSF to Resolute Support in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Afghan government.
At 2:47 a.m., a text was sent from MSF in Kabul to Resolute Support in Afghanistan saying “one staff was confirmed dead and many were unaccounted for,” according to MSF.
Five minutes later, a reply from Resolute Support stated, “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened.”
At 2:56 a.m., another text to Resolute Support asked for an end to the airstrikes and reported that there were “heavy casualties.”
At 2:59 a.m., the response from Resolute Support said, “I’ll do my best, praying for you all.”
The report reiterates MSF’s previous statements that there were no armed combatants inside the hospital at the time of the attack.
“From all MSF accounts, there was no shooting from or around the Trauma Centre and the compound was in full MSF control with our rules and procedures fully respected,” the report says.
MSF also presented a timeline of events preceding the attack in which they say GPS coordinates of the hospital were “reaffirmed” on Sept. 29 to the Pentagon, Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense and the U.S. military in Kabul. The report says both the Pentagon and Army confirmed they received those coordinates.
Three days later, on Oct. 2, MSF placed its organization’s flags on the roof of the hospital. They say the hospital was “one of the only buildings in the city that had full electricity from generator power on the night of the airstrikes.”
U.S. air support struck the hospital as Afghan forces and the Taliban battled for control of the city. U.S. special operations troops called in the strike to support Afghan troops on the ground, U.S. officials said after some initial confusion over who requested the air support.
U.S. officials declined to comment specifically on the MSF review, saying Resolute Support Mission commander Gen. John Campbell met with MSF representatives Wednesday.
"We continue to work closely with MSF in identifying the victims, both those killed and wounded, so that we can conclude our investigations and proceed with follow-on actions to include condolence payments," Department of Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement today. "We are also committed to working with MSF to determine the full extent of the damage to the hospital, so that it can be repaired in full."
President Obama has apologized to Doctors Without Borders for the deadly U.S. airstrike, which the United States has called a mistake.
The U.S. military, NATO and the Afghan government are conducting investigations into the attack, but MSF continues to demand an independent inquiry.
“We don’t have a view from cockpit or from within the Afghan & US chain of command,” MSF tweeted today.
The Taliban announced its complete withdrawal from Kunduz Oct. 13, after holding the city for 15 days. The Taliban’s taking of Kunduz marked the first time the Taliban had taken control of a major Afghan city since they were ousted from power in 2001.