Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz hit by apparent US strike

Updated

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Twelve Doctors Without Borders staff along with seven patients, including three children, were killed after an apparent U.S. airstrike hit the international charity’s hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz.

Another 37 others were injured in the strike: 19 staff members, including five in critical condition, and 18 patients and caretakers, according to Jason Cone, the executive director for Doctors Without Borders in the U.S.

The Doctors Without Borders trauma center is seen in flames, after an explosion near their hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Oct. 3, 2015. (Photo by Doctors Without Borders/AP)
The Doctors Without Borders trauma center is seen in flames, after an explosion near their hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Oct. 3, 2015. 
Photo by Doctors Without Borders/AP

Coalition spokesman Col. Brian Tribus confirmed that a U.S. airstrike conducted at around 2:15 a.m. local time on Saturday (5:45 p.m. ET Friday) “may have caused collateral damage to a nearby health facility.” The incident was being investigated, he added.

Tribus said the bombing was targeting “individuals threatening the force.” The U.S. Embassy later described it as a “tragic incident.”

Taliban militants seized control of Kunduz earlier this week but the Afghan government said Thursday that its forces were in “full control” of the city, which is home to 300,000 people.

Doctors Without Borders — which is also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres — said its site “was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.” It called the incident an “aerial attack.”

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Dalila Mahdawi, a spokeswoman for the charity, said that “all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS coordinates)” of its hospital and other facilities in the area.

“The bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed,” she added. “MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened.”

The burnt Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after an explosion in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Oct. 3, 2015. (Photo by Doctors Without Borders/AP)
The burnt Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after an explosion in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Oct. 3, 2015.
Photo by Doctors Without Borders/AP

The group said all of its international staffers were alive and accounted for. In addition to the nine workers killed, 37 other people were seriously wounded by the bombing — including 19 staff members.

At the time of the incident, the clinic had 105 patients and their caretakers, and more than 80 international and Afghan staff were present, the charity said.

“We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz,” the group’s operations director Bart Janssens said in a statement.

Adil Akbar, a doctor at the trauma center who was on duty at the time, told The Associated Press that the operating theater, emergency room and other parts of the hospital complex had been hit in the bombing.

“I managed to escape after the attack but I know that most of the staff and even some of the patients are missing,” Akbar said.

Doctors Without Borders said it had treated 394 people who had been injured since fighting began on Monday when Taliban militants conquered the provincial capital in a stunning setback for the Western-backed government. It was the first major urban area to fall to the Taliban since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told NBC News that up to 15 militants had “taken position inside the hospital compound” and begun firing on Afghan forces.

“There was an operation conducted to eliminate the threat. The hospital has been damaged and there are some casualties,” Sediqqi added. “All of the terrorists were killed, but we also lost doctors.”

The Doctors Without Borders clinic in Kunduz is a sprawling facility with numerous buildings situated in the east of the city, in a residential area close to the local office of the NDS intelligence service.

The U.S. Embassy released a statement saying it was mourning “the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors Without Borders hospital.”

—NBC News’ Jillian Sederholm contributed to this article, which first appeared on NBCNews.com

Afghanistan, Doctors Without Borders, Humanitarian Aid and War

Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz hit by apparent US strike

Updated