KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. warplane shot people trying to flee a burning hospital destroyed in airstrikes last month, according to the charity that ran the facility.
“Thirty of our patients and medical staff died [in the bombing],” Doctors Without Borders General Director Christopher Stokes said during a speech in Kabul unveiling a report on the incident. “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 Kunduz was bombed on Oct. 3 as Afghan government forces fought to regain control of the city from Taliban insurgents.
After the U.S. gave shifting explanations for the incident — which Doctors Without Borders has called a war crime — President Barack Obama apologized to the charity. The U.S. and Afghan governments have launched three separate investigations but the charity, which is also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is calling for an international inquiry.
Thursday’s report added: “Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs, and others were shot by the circling AC-130 gunship while fleeing the burning building.”
It also detailed operations in the hospital in the days leading up to the bombing, and said staff had noticed that more Taliban fighters were arriving for treatment.
“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, the group “received a question from a U.S. government official in Washington, D.C., asking whether the hospital or any other of MSF’s locations had a large number of Taliban ‘holed up’,” the report said. “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.”
The charity does not ask which armed group patients belong to as a matter of policy. Fighters are also prohibited from bringing weapons into the hospital, according to MSF.
The report, which gave a detailed log of its communication with military officials during the attack, also detailed the injuries suffered by staff and patients when the hospital came under attack as it was treating casualties.
It highlighted that the left arm of an MSF nurse was “hanging from a small piece of tissue” after he suffered a “traumatic amputation” in one of the blasts.
When asked to comment on MSF’s account, a senior defense official told NBC News:
“The Defense Department and U.S. military are conducting two separate investigations into the October third airstrike in Kunduz and are in active discussions with representatives from Doctors Without Borders to determine the facts. While the incident remains under investigation we are unable to publicly release any findings.”