MSF Calls Upon Warring Parties to Spare Afghan Civilians

Many Civilian Casualties From Bombing of Tora Bora

New York/Peshawar, December 5, 2001 — The international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today reported that it and other aid organizations had transported dozens of casualties from the bombing campaign on Tora Bora to Jalalabad hospital. Since the bombings began on December 1, aid workers have transported more than 80 dead and 50 wounded civilians, including many women and children, by ambulance to Jalalabad. The casualties came not only from Tora Bora, but also from the nearby villages of Pachir, Wazir, and Agam.

Due to the severe deterioration of security conditions in Jalalabad itself, all international MSF aid workers were evacuated this morning to Peshawar. MSF's Afghan staff are continuing their ambulance services in Jalalabad. MSF has also strengthened the capacity of the Koghiani district hospital, close to the affected area, by donating medical supplies, particularly for surgical use.

Immediately after the bombing started and reports of the toll on civilians came in, MSF set up an ambulance service with three vehicles. On the first day, they transported 72 dead and 15 wounded, on the second 8 dead and 18 wounded, on the third another 4 dead and 17 wounded. This does not account for the unknown number of dead that are left behind in the bombed villages. Among the casualties was a family whose father was killed, mother critically injured, and four children wounded. In addition, a six-year-old boy who was transported to the hospital had lost one eye and underwent partial amputation of one arm as well as full amputation of his other arm and one of his legs.

Meanwhile, the population of Hesarshari displaced camp near Jalalabad has swelled from 500 families on December 1 to about 2,000 families yesterday. The bombings have also ignited forest fires around Tora Bora that have not yet been brought under control.

MSF is increasingly seeing evidence of an unacceptably high toll on civilians due to the military operations in Afghanistan and calls upon the parties involved to minimize the consequences of the ongoing conflict on the civilian population. These events are all the more disturbing as the leaders of the war against terrorism affirm that the conflict is being waged in the name of civilization and respect for humanitarian values. The US-led coalition has the responsibility to respect international humanitarian law, particularly regarding proportionality in the use of force.

MSF currently has over 60 international relief workers and over 400 Afghan staff working inside Afghanistan from 6 cities: Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Taloqan, Faizabad, Kabul, and—though for the moment without international staff—Jalalabad.