The Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was treating 20 wounded Taliban members when it was bombed last month by U.S. military aircraft, according an internal review of the attack.
In its 13-page review, Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins San Frontieres (MSF), asserts that staff had full control of the medical center and no weapons were inside the facility.
However, the organization conceded that some armed Taliban members were allowed to briefly go inside the hospital, insisting that the breach of the no-weapons policy was swiftly rectified.
Two days before the Oct. 3 attack, which left at least 30 people dead, the U.S. government asked MSF if Taliban members were hiding in the Kunduz hospital, according to the internal report.
MSF told the U.S. that it had been treating Taliban combatants.
“When the aerial attack began, there were 105 patients in the hospital. MSF estimates that between 3 and 4 of the patients were wounded government combatants, and approximately 20 patients were wounded Taliban,” reports MSF.
Three days before the attack, the MSF hospital was reportedly treating approximately 65 wounded Taliban combatants, comprising half of the patients.
“All of the MSF staff reported that the no weapons policy was respected in the Trauma Centre,” adds the charity agency in the review, referring to the hospital.
A footnote attached to that statement explains, “Since the [Kunduz Trauma Centre] KTC opened, there were some rare exceptions when a patient was brought to the hospital in a critical condition and the gate was opened to allow the patient to be delivered to the emergency room without those transporting the patient being first searched. In each of these instances, the breach of the no weapon policy was rapidly rectified.”
Breitbart News asked MSF to elaborate further on how it handled the instances when armed Taliban members were allowed to go inside the medical facility.
“This refers to rare occasions when armed opposition [Taliban] or Afghan army personnel brought critically wounded patients right up to the entrance of the Emergency Room, when minutes could have made the difference between life and death,” Tim Shenk, a spokesman for MSF, told Breitbart News. “In all such instances, directly after the wounded patient was on a hospital bed, those who had brought the patient were escorted to the entrance of the hospital compound to leave their weapons or to leave the hospital compound.”
U.S. Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces, has described the Oct. 3 attack as a mistake and President Obama has apologized for the incident.
Although Gen. Campbell did not specifically say the Afghans were being attacked by the Taliban from within the hospital grounds, he suggested it while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 6. The Afghan government has explicitly made that claim, which has been denied by Doctors Without Borders.
“The facts compiled in this review confirm our initial observations: the MSF trauma centre was fully functioning as a hospital with 105 patients admitted and surgeries ongoing at the time of the US airstrikes; the MSF rules in the hospital were implemented and respected, including the ‘no weapons’ policy; MSF was in full control of the hospital before and at the time of the airstrikes; there were no armed combatants within the hospital compound and there was no fighting from or in the direct vicinity of the trauma centre before the airstrikes,” said the charity organization in its internal review.
The hospital was hit as the Afghan forces were trying to retake the city of Kunduz from the Taliban. Kunduz became the first provincial capital to fall into the hands of the Taliban since the insurgent group was removed from power by the U.S. in 2001. The Afghan forces did manage to take back the city.
Ultimately, after changing its story a few times, the U.S. military said that the airstrike was called by U.S. special operations forces to protect Afghan forces who were taking fire from the Taliban.
MSF describes the bloody attack in detail in its review, noting that patients tried to flee under fire from the U.S. military.
“Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs, and others were shot by the circling AC- 130 [American] gunship while fleeing the burning building,” it reports. “At least 30 MSF staff and patients were killed.”
Christopher Stokes, MSF general director, has condemned reports indicating that the attack on the hospital could be justified because Taliban members were being treated there, saying the organization was “disgusted” by those claims.
According to Stokes, the U.S. attack on the hospital constitutes a war crime.
The Obama administration has reportedly refused MSF’s demand for an independent investigation.